By Jez Butterworth
Directed by Joe Jahraus
At Profiles Theatre’s Main Stage, Chicago
Spirited production suffers from being too authentic and too British.
Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem is his 1995 dark comedy, now in its Midwest premiere at Profiles Theatre, that presents a sprawling, high spirited and very British affair about Johnny “Rooster” Byron (Darrell W. Cox in a riveting performance) and his band of followers bent on being hedonists while living unconventional lives of alcohol, drugs, sex, and storytelling. Rooster is the charismatic leader who just may be a sorcerer, but surly is a womanizer and drunk who sells drugs to teenage girls.
As we observe Rooster and his wild troupe, we see that he is a loner who defies society and the local government by living in squalor and not paying taxes. He is about to be evicted so urban sprawl can come to his rural England forest. Rooster is an amoral character who lives in the moment for life’s pleasures. He surrounds himself with sixteen characters each influenced by his charm and wizardry. The set design (by Thad Hallstein0), the sound (by Brandon Reed), and the lighting (by Mike Rathbun) all contributed to the chaotic atmosphere. The cast largely performed with gusto and panache making this a most ambitious evening of unique theatre – almost!
Running almost three hours (with two intermissions) with loads of shouting and many characters loudly talking over each other, especially with thick brogues, much of Jerusalem was unintelligible. I simply couldn’t understand most of what was said, thus confusing me and eventually turning me off to the work. This tedious foul-mouthed dark comedy featured Rooster, who I couldn’t care about since he is a slob who is a drunk and a drug dealer to teens. His crew contains several unique souls but since their garbled brogues hindered my understanding, their plights left me cold.
Jerusalem is an ambitious endeavor for Profiles Theatre. Too bad the use of thickly mumbled accents made it so difficult to understand what was being said that I quickly tuned out the show. That made the almost three hours a tedious pursuit. Why make the accents so thick (and real) that audiences find it too hard to understand? Why? Better to just hint at the brogue in the interest of being understood than leave us dumb-founded as to what was said. In a play as verbose as Jerusalem, the accents dilute the power of the show needlessly. Much of the humor and the terrific performance by Jake Szczepaniak, Scott Wolf, and Patrick Thornton (among others) became muted by those accents. Too bad that Darrell Cox and his cast worked so hard only to be hindered by such garbled accents. I asked several audience members if they had trouble understanding the accents. They answered they did and several left during the first intermission. I may be one of the few reviewers to mention the thick accents but I believe that audiences need to know about that element which could impede their appreciating of the play.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: March 13, 2016
For more info checkout the Jerusalem page at theatreinchicago.com
At Profiles Theatre’s Main Stage, 4139 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL, call 773-549-1815, tickets$35 – $40, Thursdays & Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 4 & 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm, running time is 2hours, 55 minutes with 2 intermissions, through April 24, 2016