Thursday, April 21, 2011

Jerusalem *

Lured by the prospect of seeing Mark Rylance in another prize-winning performance, I attended the final preview of the London import Jerusalem at the Music Box. Three things that I have a very low tolerance for are plays about trailer dwellers, plays about heavy drug users and/or drunks, and plays that resort to blasting my eardrums with loud rock music to get my attention. Within 30 seconds, it was clear that I had hit the trifecta and was in for a long (3 hours and 5 minutes, to be exact) tough slog. Rylance plays Johnny "Rooster" Byron, a modern Pied Piper, whose drugs and booze attract a sorry lot of hangers-on to his trailer in the woods on the edge of a Wiltshire town. The action takes place on St. George's Day, on the eve of Rooster's threatened eviction by the local town council to make way for a housing estate. Much drinking, snorting and using the "c" word ensue. Perhaps playwright Jez Butterworth's goal was to bemoan the sterility of life in present-day England and lament the loss of any connection to ancient English folk traditions. The hymn Jerusalem from a poem by Blake is sung at the beginning of Acts I and II, but the significance of the words was lost on me because they were either inaudible or unintelligible. The only bright spots of the evening were the tall tales Rooster tells with such great flair. Rylance's performance is indeed a tour de force, but not sufficient reason to endure a tedious evening. For me to enjoy a play, there must be at least a character or two that I care for or want to know more about; in this case there were none. The play was enthusiastically received in London. Maybe you have to be English to fully appreciate it. Fairness requires that I report that many people around me seemed to be enjoying the evening. Ian Rickson directed the mostly British cast.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Bob, for an amusing review ("you hit the trifecta"--ha!) and your recommendation to avoid this one. Sue

Susan said...

Couldn't have said it better myself. There have been good plays in the genre (trailerpark) but this is not one, e.g. Killer Joe (great!), Scarcity (Jesse Eisenberg got his start! at Atlantic), and even others by Butterworth. This one had no subtlety and I wd say while Rylance was good, that's an actor's job and there are plenty who cd have done as well. Maybe Nathan Lane who is certainly Falstaffian? It went on forever.

Anonymous said...

Right on as usual! It was a marathon!!

Anonymous said...

at last- someone who agrees with me about this play-
i share all your aversions, and had forgotten about the loud music.
drop-outs do not interest me, but i also didn't like
rylance as he seemed to be smugly indicated "wow, i'm really terrific in this, aren't i?"- or maybe
it was supposed to be the character.

Anonymous said...

Well, I enjoyed the play a lot. The inimitable Rylance's tall tale telling solos were so much fun to hear. I disagree with Susan that a lot of actors could do it as well. I think Rylance is in a class by himself - he disappears into his parts in a unique way. Also, he seems to be a British actor that doesn't emote, that hasn't fallen in love with his own diction - maybe that's because he has lived in the USA. There were plenty of funny lines for the rest of the cast and the rest of the play. The three hours went quickly for me.

Bob said...

Judy, I'm glad you enjoyed it more than I did.

Anonymous said...

What a bore it was--and was the idea that THIS was the England that was being lost to development? I can't think of a better case for suburbia, and I haven't left the city since college.

Months have gone by and I can still feel how restless and bored I was by this self-indulgent display. Rylance was incredible (as he was in the almost equally tedious La Bete).