Review by Tulis McCall
(22 Apr 2010)
Here is what I think: anyone who writes a review that is full of those icky superlatives that can be plastered on a billboard is out of their cotton pickin’ mind.
Reviewing this show is like trying to review watching a tree growing roots, or a hurricane forming, or the death of the last stegosaurus. This is way more than what we usually get around these parts that passes for theatre. This is a reckoning. This is a myth lived out onstage; not acted out, not demonstrated.
It’s not always pretty, this play, and it’s rarely kind, but that is not the deal here. This play is not trying to please you. It is trying to grab you by the scruff of the neck and drag you into its embrace. And because Mark Rylance is holding the joy stick, it is into the embrace you plummet.
Today is St. George’s day, in Flintock, Wiltshire County, and the good town folk will turn out for the boring local fete. Last night there was a party/riot at Johnny’s, and this morning an eviction notice has been taped to the door of Johnny’s huge silver trailer.
Johnny Byron (Rylance) lives a pickled life in a trailer on some property that is wanted by other people. Other people would like to put up neat little homes on that property and they cannot do this while Johnny lives there. As a matter of fact it will be hard for them to do it while Johnny lives, period. Not that anyone is trying to murder him. But if he were to die, say, while being evicted, nobody would mind all that much.
Well, the kids would mind. Ginger (Mackenzie Crook), and Lee (John Gallagher Jr.) and Davey (Danny Kirrane). These are three of the transients who, like the lost boys, count on Johnny to be around when the rest of the world is treating them like crap. And the Professor (Alan David), whose brilliant mind is caving in on him like a ruined soufflé – he would very much miss Johnny. Johnny is a refuge for people who have nowhere to go, even the ones like Dawn (Geraldine Hughes), the mother of his son, who won’t admit how she still needs him even though she knows better. Even the local publican stops in regularly for a hit of whatever Johnny has on hand.
And finally Johnny is a refuge for himself. His refuge is taken in the tales he spins – like the time he met a Giant (hard to tell how tall he was as he was sitting down at first), or that he was born of a virgin mother impregnated by a magic bullet, or the Nigerian Traffic Wardens who kidnapped him. Then there are the tales told about him – like the time he died, or the time he drank four Vodka and Red Bulls, stripped naked and started propositioning a bar stool.
Like I said, Johnny isn’t out to win your heart.
It took me awhile to get on the turnip truck for this one. I wasn’t certain where Rylance and this cast were going during the first act. But as the second act came up on me, I realized that these people aren’t going anywhere. They are growing where they stand. In the course of three hours we see the heights and depths of humanity; we feel the life force that is permeating the theatre; we witness the presence of giants.
It is not a play. It is a myth in full reveal.
What the popular press said...
Ben Brantley for NY Times
"Johnny's stories of giants may be nonsense, but there's no denying that Rylance wows you with performances that are larger than life."
Joe Dziemianowicz for NY Daily News
"There's no denying the writing's lyrical power, and Ian Rickson's ... production ... has a punch-in-the-gut virtuosity. Yet the cumulative effect, over three hours, is numbing."
Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post
"A harrowing but frequently hilarious ride, staged with compulsive energy by Ian Rickson.... The best play of the season."
Jeremy Gerald for Bloomberg
"In the course of three hours we see the heights and depths of humanity; we feel the life force that is permeating the theatre; we witness the presence of giants."
Erik Haagensen for Back Stage
"'Jerusalem' runs three hours, and Rylance keeps us entranced for every minute of it."
Robert Feldberg for The Record
"It’s a terribly bold performance (Rylance) in every way that at times slops over into being too much of a good thing."
Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey
"The vibrant heart of the production is without question Rylance. .., Rylance has continued to raise the bar for himself with distinctive, highly idiosyncratic performances. Rooster might be his masterpiece."
David Rooney for The Hollywood Reporter
"Rylance's deliciously subversive performance triggers both barrels of Butterworth's funny if disconcerting play."
Marilyn Stasio for Variety
External links to full reviews from popular press...