Jerusalem Gets a Longer Life on Broadway, Now to Aug. 21

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25 May 2011

Mark Rylance
Mark Rylance
Simon Annand

Jerusalem, British playwright Jez Butterworth's tragicomic play about the indelible inhabitants of a slice of rural England, featuring Tony Award winner (and current 2011 nominee) Mark Rylance in a performance acclaimed as positively titanic, has been extended by four weeks, now to Aug. 21 at Broadway's Music Box Theatre.

For his work in the London bow of the comic drama, Rylance (Boeing-Boeing, La Bête) won the 2010 Olivier Award and the 2009 Evening Standard and London Critics' Circle Best Actor Awards. The play won the 2009 Evening Standard and London Critics' Circle for Best Play. He's now a Tony nominee as Best Actor in a Play. It's up for six Tonys this year, including one for Best Play.

The production, directed by Ian Rickson (Broadway's The Seagull), began previews April 2 and opened April 21. A limited 16-week engagement was originally announced.

The title of the play refers to an 1804 poem by William Blake (about Jesus' supposed sojourn to England), which later became a hymn that is beloved in England, according to a helpful note in the Playbill. Read Playbill.com's recent special feature, A Guide to Jerusalem's Cultural Allusions and Iconic References.

Jerusalem opened at the Royal Court Theatre in July 2009 with critics praising Butterworth for his darkly comic ode to a disappearing way of life — or the disappearing larger-than-life characters — in provincial England. The play, which has a running time of three hours, is set on April 23, St. George's Day, once a major holiday in England.



The production played an extended sold-out run at the Royal Court before moving to the Apollo Theatre in the West End in January 2010, where critics again embraced it.

When it first appeared, Butterworth writes in a note in his script, the play "was described as a State of the Nation piece, which is odd because I have absolutely no idea what the State of the Nation might be."

He added, "I live on a farm in the middle of nowhere. I don't read the newspaper, or go to London much. Although the play is set in England, on an English saint's day, I guess I was really trying to write something about the passing of time. About how we move on. But to be honest, I wrote whatever gave me goose-bumps. I figured if I got goose-bumps writing it, then maybe the audience might get goose-bumps."

Jerusalem is set in 2011, in a clearing in the woods, in Flintock, Wiltshire, England. At the back of the clearing stands an old 40-foot mobile home. This is the home of the broken, hard-drinking central character, Johhny "Rooster" Byron, whose supply of drugs, tall tales, booze and rock music draws young people to him.

Here's how the producers characterize the play: "In the woods of South West England, Johnny 'Rooster' Byron (Mark Rylance), former daredevil motorcyclist and modern-day Pied Piper, is a wanted man. The council officials want to serve him an eviction notice, his son wants to be taken to the country fair, a stepfather wants to give him a serious kicking and a motley crew of friends wants his ample supply of drugs and alcohol."

Mackenzie Crook
photo by Simon Annand

Joining Rylance and 2011 Tony nominee Mackenzie Crook ("The Office" in the U.K.) as pal Ginger in the Broadway run are Tony Award winner John Gallagher, Jr. (Spring Awakening, American Idiot) as Lee, Max Baker (Cyrano de Bergerac) as Wesley, Geraldine Hughes (Translations) as Dawn and Molly Ranson (August: Osage County) as Pea, alongside seven members of the original Royal Court and West End company: Alan David as The Professor, Aimeé-Ffion Edwards as Phaedra, Danny Kirrane as Davey, Charlotte Mills as Tanya, Sarah Moyle as Ms. Fawcett, Harvey Robinson as Mr. Parsons and Barry Sloane as Troy Whitworth. Aiden Eyrick and Mark Page alternate in the role of Marky.

 

Rylance won enthusiastic reviews in 2010 for his performance as Valere in David Hirson's La Bête, on Broadway and in the West End, directed by Matthew Warchus. He won the 2008 Tony Award and Drama Desk for Best Actor in a Play and a Theatre World Award for his New York stage debut as Robert in Boeing-Boeing. He is a two-time winner of the Olivier Award for Jerusalem (2010) and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing (1993). Rylance was the artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe from 1996 to 2005 and also served as an associate actor of the RSC, acting in 48 plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Read the spring 2011 Playbill magazine feature about Rylance.

Butterworth is the author of five plays: Mojo (Royal Court 1995); The Night Heron (Royal Court 2002); The Winterling (Royal Court 2006); Parlour Song (Almeida 2009); and Jerusalem (Royal Court 2009). Rickson's Broadway credits include the critically acclaimed Royal Court Theatre production of Chekhov's The Seagull, starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Peter Sarsgaard and Mackenzie Crook, and Conor McPherson's The Weir.

Jerusalem includes scenic and costume design by Ultz, lighting design by Mimi Jordan Sherin and sound design by Ian Dickinson for Autograph. The composer is Stephen Warbeck.

Performances are Tuesday at 7 PM, Wednesday at 2 and 8 PM, Thursday and Friday at 7 PM, Saturday at 2 and 8 PM and Sunday at 3 PM.

Tickets are available at www.telecharge.com. For more information, visit www.JerusalemBroadway.com.