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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hysteria



Playwright: Terry Johnson


VenueThe Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut Street, Boulder, CO, 80302.

Running Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission). 

Date of Performance:  Wednesday, April 29, 2015. 

I don’t know if I can define Hysteria.  The script seems to defy definition.  What I can say, however, is that Hysteria is a unique, jarring, and utterly exquisite experience.  On leaving the theater after the show, I heard it described as a “tragicomedy,” and as a “historical fictional comedy.”  In my view, both those descriptions are lacking.

It is debatable whether it’s even necessary to put a label on Hysteria, but the temptation is strong as it does not fit into any of our convenient categories.  My stab at a label, “psychohistorical dramatic introspection,” is also lacking.  Whatever you call it, it’s clear that Boulder Ensemble has just added Hysteria to its long list of intelligent, provocative and rewarding productions.

Is Hysteria a comedy?  Perhaps.  It’s very funny in spots, with jokes intentionally inserted into an otherwise serious situation.  Still, to me, there so much more to Hysteria than punch lines that I cannot in good conscience call it a comedy.

Hysteria is a fictional account of real event:  the July, 1938 meeting between psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and artist Salvadore Dali.  The meeting itself is ripe with potential; one of the most influential psychiatrists in history sitting down with one of the most original artists of the 19th and 20th centuries is a tantalizing topic.  The script includes some important historical facts.  Dali did in fact bring his latest painting to the meeting.  Freud was somewhat ambivalent about Dali’s work.
Chris Kendall (Sigmund Freud), Michael Bouchard (Salvadore Dali).
The script highlights one other significant historical fact:  that in 1896, Freud proposed that hysteria, an over diagnosed and generally female dysfunction, was caused by childhood sexual abuse.  That Freud abandoned this theory by 1898 becomes one of the central plot issues in Hysteria.

Beyond a few isolated facts, however, Hysteria is not meant to be taken as a historically accurate account of the meeting.  Rather, it is a bit of a mashup of facts, fantasy, and speculation.  And, I should add, it is an extremely entertaining mashup at that.

The four main cast members here are uniformly excellent.  Michael Bouchard does a spot on impression of the narcissistic Dali, referring to himself in the third person and replacing Freud’s Picasso with his own latest painting.  Chris Kendall is Sigmund Freud, complete with heavy German accent and period specific horn rimmed glasses.  Jim Hunt plays Yahuda, Freud’s personal doctor and sometimes critic of Freud’s controversial writings.  Lauren Bahlman (Jessica), however, becomes the center of attention for both Freud and Dali, intruding and imposing on both men.

This remarkable cast is joined onstage by several others, including Heather Fey and Silas Hall, near the end of the show, in what will be remembered by many as the defining scene of the entire play.

Bouchard, Hunt, Kendall, and Bahlman are all talented, engaging professionals, but here the whole seems to be much greater than the sum of its parts.  It is like watching a Formula One race car on a winding road; they rev, accelerate, brake, and crash together as if all of a piece of the same machine.
Michael Boudchard (Salvador Dali), Lauren Bahlman (Jessica).

It’s difficult to describe more of the plot without giving too much away, so I will limit the details to a paltry few.  Freud is dying of mouth cancer, and Yahuda is treating him by relieving his pain.  Jessica intrudes, demanding that Freud treat her psychiatric symptoms.  The events that follow are suitable for a Dali painting; they are surreal, dreamy, and sometimes beyond belief.  Don't be surprised if you find yourself wondering what is real and what is fantasy.  The line is deliberately blurred.  Remember.  It is difficult to understand what is real and what is fantasy in a Dali painting.  Hysteria is something of a live theater version of a Dali canvas.

Kerry Cripe's set is stunning; the interior of Freud's office seems a fully natural fit for the good Doctor.  The constant rain in the window is probably the best onstage creation of weather you will ever see.  Cripe's piece de resistance here are small, subtle touches that turn the set into a three dimensional Dali painting.  The effect is extraordinary.

Richard Devin's lighting design is extremely effective, especially in the extended dream sequence of the second act.  I think the proper description is "brilliance," literally and figuratively.

Director Michael Stricker is gifted with a marvelous cast, and he wisely turns them loose to do what they do best.  They do not let him down.  Striker sets a careful pace, making the playwright's points with appropriate pauses to let those points sink in. Stricker had a substantial challenge here.  He had to make a script that features ideas and dialog (as opposed to action) sufficiently engaging to captivate his audience.  He succeeded.  Wildly.

The central point to Hysteria is not the comedy.  It is that Jessica forces Freud to explain and justify his psychiatric theories.  In essence, she puts Freud on the couch to face analysis.  It is a difficult reversal for Freud, and he resists as long as he can.  Doctors rarely make good patients, and Freud is no exception.  He won’t take the advice he himself would give to a patient in his circumstances.  Doing so would require him to admit to errors, and that’s something doctors rarely do.

Doctors, of course, do make errors.  Unlike the errors most of us make at our jobs, doctors are sometimes said to “bury their errors.”  The stakes are very high for doctors, and Freud is reluctant to investigate the consequences of his theories and his treatments.

Hysteria is ultimately about psychiatric analysis and the consequences for all involved.  While there are jokes along the way, make no mistake.  Hysteria is a serious show about a serious subject.  This is riveting, creative, entertaining, and, best of all, profound theater.  Hysteria will grab you by the lapels, shake you up, and challenge you to listen and learn.  I walked out thinking “this is why I love theater.”  You will too.
Jim Hunt (Yahuda) and Chris Kendall (Sigmund Freud).

NOTES:

This show, in my view is appropriate for teenagers over 16.  However, discretion is advised; there is some nudity.

There is ample free parking at the theater and on the surrounding streets.  Overflow parking is made available when there are multiple events at the Dairy Center.





TICKETS HERE:  

This show will close on May 17, 2015.


PRE/POST SHOW DINING RECOMMENDATION:

Zolo Grill, 2525 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder.  We tried the Zolo because we saw it on the Boulder Ensemble “BETC Top Picks.”  With an extensive tequila list and a Happy Hour from 3:00to 6:00 PM, Zolo is a great choice for excursions to the Dairy Center.  The restaurant is not even a 5 minute drive from the theater, and (this is my favorite part) you can park right outside the front door.  I had a Post “Howdy” craft Pilsner (brewed at the Post Brewery in Lafayette).  Roxie had the house marg, and found it cold and tasty.  The pinto beans on the side was the only downside for me; they are prepared more like chili beans, with onions and assorted other ingredients.  These are not your traditional refried beans.  We had our choice of 3 dining “rooms:” inside, breezeway, and patio.  


CREATIVE TEAM:

Producing Ensemble Director:  Stephen Weitz

Director:  Michael Stricker

Production Manager:  Andew Metzroth

Lighting Designer:  Richard Devin

Sound Designer:  Andrew Metzroth

Set Designer:  Kerry Cripe

Costume Designer:  Markas Henry

Stage Manager:  Kassandra Kunisch

Assistant Stage Managers:  Silas Hall, Nathan Spurgeon

Dialect Coach:  Tammy Meneghini



CAST:

Jessica:  Lauren Bahlman

Salvadore Dali:  Michael Bouchard

Abraham Yahuda:  Jim Hunt

Sigmund Freud:  Chris Kendall

Additional Cast:  Heather Fey, Silas Hall


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Man of No Importance



Book by: Terrence McNally

Music by: Stephen Flaherty

Lyrics by:  Lynn Ahrens

Based on the film A Man of No Importance.

VenueThe Arvada Center for the Arts & Humanities, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada, CO.

Running Time: 2 hours, 40 minutes (includes 20 minute intermission). 

Date of Performance:  Tuesday, April 28, 2015. 

It is no small irony that the Arvada Center’s production of A Man of No Importance opened on the same day as the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on same sex marriage.  Set in Dublin in 1964, A Man of No Importance is a musical love story, but also a chronicle of the hazards of being a gay man in a Catholic country.  Fifty years on, a lot has changed.  Ireland now recognizes same sex civil unions.  Sadly, though, hate crimes against members of the Irish LGBT community continue, and those crimes are arguably increasing.

Ireland is not unique; statistics suggest that assaults, murders, and other crimes against American LGBT citizens are also increasing.

The title, A Man of No Importance, says a lot about the plight of the lead character, Alfie Byrne (Kevin Loreque).  Closeted, ashamed, and living in his own personal prison, Alfie is a desperately lonely guy.  His friends are limited to his amateur theater company group at Saint Imelda’s Catholic Church.  He lives with his devoted sister Lily (Heather Lacy), and works as a ticket taker on the Dublin bus system.  He reads poetry to the bus passengers, and lives to produce “art” with his theater company.  He is very interested in Robby Fay (Peter Gosik), but he has never had an intimate relationship with anyone.

McNally’s script is beautifully written, if somewhat predictable.  By predictable, I mean that musicals tend to have uniformly happy endings, and A Man of No Importance is no exception.  Alfie’s very real struggles are mostly resolved by the time the final curtain comes down.  That, for me, is something of an alternate reality.  If only life were that easy for all of us.

L-R: Kevin Loreque (Alfie), Peter Gosik (Robbie Fay), Erik Sandvold (Carson).
Kevin Loreque is sublime as Alfie.  He’s vulnerable, lovable, and braver than one would expect.  Loreque has a superb singing voice, which he uses to marvelous effect in Love Who You Love.  It’s impossible to miss the message in Lynn Ahrens’ lyrics when Loreque pours out his heart with them.  Loreque is transformed before our eyes when he discovers the loyalty of his true friends; it is a scene of true love and hope.  Loreque nails it.

Robbie Flay (Peter Gosik) is Alfie’s love interest, but it turns out that he’s a happy hetero.  Gosik plays it “straight,” that is, he can’t be what Alfie needs, but neither does he reject him as a friend.  Gosik is a winner; we know why Alfie calls him the “love that dare not speak its’ name.”  

Adele Rice (Emily Van Fleet) is something of a female mirror image of Alfie; she’s a social outcast
Kevin Loreque, Emily Van Fleet.
with a secret; her self esteem has bottomed out.  Van Fleet is timid, self conscious, and troubled, as she should be as Adele.  Her counterpoint to Alfie is poignant; he’s not the only one with a secret.  Their scenes together are tender and touching.

Breton Beret (Daniel Langhoff) is the heavy here, and he is indeed a despicable villain.  Langhoff plays it to the hilt, entrapping Alfie and taking him down.  Sadly, Beret is a character we all recognize.  He’s cruel, devious and all too common.  

Father Kenny (Erik Sandvold) is the voice of Catholic correctness; he shuts down Alfie’s production of Salome after the Monsignor gets word of it.  Calling it a “dirty play,” Father Kenny expels the theater company from the small stage in the church.  As a former Catholic, I found Sandvold’s portrayal strikingly accurate; Sandvold reminds me of every priest I ever met.  He gets the essence of the priesthood exactly right.  

The entire cast is excellent, bringing the music and the drama together in a memorable night of theater.  Sally Anne Burke’s costumes are pitch perfect, from the Irish lower class frocks to Oscar Wilde’s cape and fedora.  

A Man of No Importance is a musical, and that music is of great importance.  Local Irish band Colcannon provides a short, pre-show set, as well as most of the instrumentals for the show.  Colcannon may make you thirsty enough to get a Guinness at the concession stand; you can bring that Guinness into the theater.

Don’t miss the pre-show set (7:15 for evening performances); Colcannon is a special treat for all fans of Irish music.  They are accompanied offstage during the show by David Nehls (keyboards) and Keith Ewer (percussion).  Listen carefully before the show as they play Love’s Never Lost; it’s haunting, and it’s also part of the show music.

Same sex marriage may soon come to all of America.  It may even come to Ireland one day.  That is certainly progress, but as A Man of No Importance reminds us, there will always be those who resist, and sometimes, strike out in hatred.  The battle for equality is not enough.  There is also a fight for the basic human dignity that all of us deserve.  That battle will take much longer.


NOTES:

This show, in my view is appropriate for teenagers, but there are adult themes.  Discretion is advised.  

It's worth repeating; arrive at least 15 minutes early to enjoy the pre-show set from Colcannon.

There is ample free parking at the theater.



TICKETS HERE:  

This show will close on May 17, 2015.


PRE/POST SHOW DINING RECOMMENDATION:

We stopped at 3 Sons Italian Restaurant at 14805 W 64th Avenue in Arvada.  It’s about a 15 minute drive to or from the theater, weather and traffic permitting.


Known for the calzone, as they say.  3 Sons has a full bar and an extensive Italian menu, including pizza.  Mention that you’re going to the Arvada Center if time is a consideration, and they will hustle your order through the kitchen and onto your table.




CREATIVE TEAM:

Artistic Producer/Director:  Rod A. Lansberry

Music Director:  David Nehls

Lighting Designer:  Shannon McKinney

Sound Designer:  David Thomas

Set Designer:  Brian Mallgrave

Choreographer:  Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck

Costume Designer:  Sally Ann Burke

Stage Manager:  Lisa Cook

Assistant Stage Manager:  Paul Behrhorst

Wig/Makeup Design:  Diana Ben-Kiki


CAST:

Alfie Byrne:  Kevin Loreque

Robbie Fay: Peter Gosik

Adele Rice:  Emily Van Fleet

Lily Byrne:  Heather Lacy

William Carney/Oscar Wilde:  Jeffrey Roark

Baldy/James Michael O’Shea:  Colin Alexander

Breton Beret:  Daniel Langhoff

Ernie Lally:  Thadd Krueger

Miss Crowe:  Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck

Mrs. Curtin:  Sharon Kay White

Mrs. Patrick: Lauren Shealy

Rasher Flynn:  Paul Dwyer

Mrs. Grace:  Megan Van De Hey

Peter:  Tim Howard

Sully O’Hara:  Robert Michael Sanders

Father Kenny/Carson:  Erik Sandvold

Kitty Farelly:  Piper Lindsay Arpan


Orchestra:

Keyboards:  David Nehls

Percussion:  Keith Ewer


Colcannon:

Bodhrán and vocals:  Mick Bolger

Fiddle:  Jean Bolger

Flutes:  Cynthia Jaffe

Guitars:  Brian Mullins

Bass:  Michael Fitzmaurice


The Liar

This review is posted at the Colorado Springs Independent website

Monday, April 27, 2015

Killer Joe



Playwright: Tracy Letts


Venue:  Cottonwood Center for the Arts, 420 East Colorado Avenue, Colorado Springs, CO 80903.

Running Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission). 

Date of Performance:  Sunday, April 26, 2015 (closing performance). 

Killer Joe is an unpleasant theater experience by design; it forces us to confront the less fortunate among us.  We all know there are Killer Joes out there, but we are in some degree of denial.  If we don’t have friends or relatives who have fallen on desperate times, if we don’t see the homeless beggars on the street corner, if we haven’t lost our jobs, we can live in our own privileged bubble we call "reality."  

The hapless characters in Tracy Letts’ script don’t have the luxury of any privileged reality.  Their daily lives are a harsh and hopeless prison of poverty, crime, and fear.  Letts forces us to live in their reality for two hours.  

And what a brutal, relentless reality it is.

Star Bar takes on Killer Joe with a bold enthusiasm.  The challenges for a small company are considerable; this is a script that will appeal to a limited audience.  The set and props are substantial, the special effects, including spilling blood onstage are critical to a successful performance.  Star Bar blows right by these challenges, bringing Letts’ script to life with a brash, raw, nonstop energy.

For those unfamiliar with the script, the plot involves a murder for hire scheme, in which the hit man’s day job is as a corrupt cop.  The desperation leading to the scheme involves a drug deal gone bad.  I don’t do spoilers, but I think from this brief description one would not expect a happy ending.  And there is none.

Set Designers Elizabeth Kahn and Beth Mosley have carefully crafted a dilapidated, garbage strewn shack for the action.  It’s a depressing, bleak set, and perfectly in synch with Lett’s tone.  Fight Director Christian O’Shaughnessy put his actors into credible, and sometimes scary conflicts.  It was difficult at times to know whether an actor was accidentally hurt in the fights.  Co-Directors Elizabeth Kahn and Greg Lanning demonstrated a high level of respect for their actors, insuring their safety and their dignity in some dangerous and decidedly undignified moments.  Kahn and Lanning paced the performance well; there was not a wasted moment here.  

Shayn Megilligan (Chris) is the costar, if not the star, of Killer Joe.  Megilligan gets beaten, battered, insulted, and betrayed; he is a perfect victim of Letts’ tragedy.  His role walks the fine line between desperation and hopelessness.  Megilligan is convincingly desperate enough to contemplate murder, and ultimately completely without hope for any escape from his fate.  Megilligan generates a lot of empathy but little sympathy for his self inflicted predicament.  
L-R:  Dylan Mosley (Joe), Nick Charles Madson (Ansel), Shayn Megilligan (Chris).

As the title character, Dylan Mosley (Joe) has some serious challenges.  He’s a cold blooded killer, a hard nosed negotiator, and a sexual predator.  Presumably, Mosley is none of the above offstage, but when he appears as Killer Joe, one cannot doubt his basic evilness.  His performance is nuanced; even an evil monster sometimes say “yes, please” when asked if he wants a beer.  Mosley credibly portrays Joe’s homicidal callousness just as easily he portrays his softer, civilized side.

Alysabeth Clements Mosley’s role (Sharla) has its challenges too; she’s devious with a heart of stone.  She hides her scheme with the skill of a snake oil salesman.  When things go bad for her, she is subjected to repulsive emotional, physical, and sexual indignities.  Trust me.  It’s very hard to watch the ordeal she endures.  Sharla had it coming, but I have trouble imagining how emotionally disturbing it must be for an actor to be subjected to such ferocious degradation in every performance.  Sharla gets no sympathy from me.  Mosley does.

Nick Charles Madson (Ansel) and Stephanie Irene Schlis (Dottie) round out the very capable cast.  Madson is appropriately disengaged as Ansel, despondent about the wretchedness of his life.  Schlis’ Dottie is simple, vulnerable, and naïve.  Dottie’s fate is both the most obvious at the outset, and the most tragic at the climax.  Schlis carefully crafts her performance to be the only sympathetic character in a cast of deadbeats, losers, and criminals.

Despite the power and the tension that is so successful here, I do have one question about the production.  The second act has a disturbing scene in which Dylan Mosley (Joe) uses a prosthetic prop.  That’s understandable; not using a prop would have been decidedly unsuitable.  However, the prosthetic seemed too small to be realistic, and certainly too small to be easily seen in the middle of the room, much less the back.  I would have preferred a more realistic, more visible version of the prop in question.  

Killer Joe is not fun, nor is it easy to watch.  In fact, you may want to take a shower as soon as possible after the show.  Letts gives us a peak into a world most of us will never know.  He forces us to watch things that are beyond disturbing.  If there’s a point to his bleak story, I think it may be the old adage “there but for fortune, go you and I.”  You may think this is an alternate universe, but in reality, there is a very thin line between civilization and anarchy.  

These characters are desperate lonely losers, but ask yourself a question.  What would you do in similar circumstances? 

If you think you would do things differently, I think you may be mistaken.  


NOTES:

This show is appropriate for adults only.  There is nudity, violence, and adult language.

There is free parking street parking around the theater.

Unfortunately, I was not able to see Killer Joe until the closing performance.  It’s too late now for readers to get a ticket, and that’s a shame.  

As a personal note, I have no objection to nudity in theater and film.  It is generally plot related and an appropriate reflection of the reality being portrayed.  That said, however, it is annoying to me that actresses are routinely expected to disrobe, but actors are rarely expect to do the same.  

Killer Joe is rare; nudity is expected of both actors and actresses.  For that reason alone, it is a commendable script.  Likewise, Star Bar is to be credited for producing a show the treats the males in the cast the same as the women.  The nudity is not an expectation or a burden for the women alone.


PHOTO CREDITSStar Bar Theater Company.

TICKETS HERE:  Sorry.  This show has closed.


PRE/POST SHOW DINING RECOMMENDATION:

We stopped after the Sunday matinee at our favorite downtown watering hole:  Jack Quinn’s Irish Ale House and Pub.  Guinness, Killkenny, and Smithwick’s on draft, and a menu of English and Irish cuisine make Jack’s one of the best pubs in town.  Try the Pretzel & Guinness Sausage Kabobs ($7.50) appetizer.  They’re delicious (especially when dipped into the yummy mustard that comes with them), and you may find that you don’t need dinner after having the Kabobs.


CREATIVE TEAM:

Directors:  Elizabeth Kahn & Greg Lanning

Lighting Designer:  Eli Monroe

Sound Designer:  Bob Borsch

Set Designer:  Elizabeth Kahn & Beth Mosley

Costume Designer:  Catherine Cotton McGuire, Beth Mosley, Marilyn Freeman

Stage Manager:  Kim Bennett

Makeup Design:  Ethan Gann

Fight Director:  Christian O’Shaughnessy


CAST:

Chris:  Shayn Megilligan

Sharla:  Alysabeth Clements Mosley

Ansel:  Nick Charles Madson

Dottie:  Stephanie Irene Schlis

Killer Joe:  Dylan Mosley


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Jerusalem


Playwright: Jez Butterworth


Venue:  The Edge Theater, 1560 Teller Street, Lakewood, CO 80214.

Running Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes (includes two 15 minute intermissions).  For planning purposes, consider this a 3 hour event.

Date of Performance:  Saturday, April 25, 2015. 

This may date me somewhat, but watching Jerusalem reminded me of a concert I attended on August 3, 1967.  Few in the audience knew what to expect of a British band known as “The Who.”  For those who have never had the experience, The Who stood out from their competition by demolishing their instruments at the end of their signature song “My Generation."

I remember standing there, hardly able to believe what I had just seen.   My reaction to The Who's final number was similar to Tommy Smothers reaction here (advance the video to 3:40 to see the climax of the performance and Smother's reaction).  The stage was a shambles; a pall of smoke hung over the band.  There was, of course, no encore.

Cut to today at The Edge Theater and their jolting, smoking production of Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem.  As the final scene went dark, I could hardly believe what I had just seen.  I was emotionally drained and shaking my head, stunned at the meltdown I had witnessed.  It was an unforgettable moment, just like The Who's final number at the Dane County Coliseum on August 3, 1967.

There are some things you should probably know before you spring for tickets to Jerusalem.  

First, it’s not for everybody.  The characters are vulgar, crude, hard drinking, drug users and/or dealers.  They are sometimes lovable, but they are definitely not your typical hero types.  Seeing adults snorting a line of cocaine is provocative.  Teenagers snorting a line infinitely more disturbing.

Second, despite the subject matter, Jerusalem is also extremely funny.  Expect the profanities and the drug scenes, but be ready to laugh too.

Third, the cast is brilliant, but all the lines are delivered in heavy British accents.  The Edge has thoughtfully included two pages of British slang translations in the program.  I highly recommend that you read those two pages before the show starts.

Lastly, the events in Jerusalem revolve around the celebration of St. George’s Day.  Since this is a little known event on this side of the Atlantic, a typical British celebration is similar to a county fair, with a midway, food, and beer. The event is based on the Legend of St. George.  George lived in the third century AD, and legend has it that he happened on an unusual tradition in a Silene, Libya.  A dragon living in the local lake required the annual sacrifice of lambs and children.  St. George intervened and slew the dragon.  

Jerusalem takes place in a small town in rural England, and the story unfolds on the day before St. George’s Day, and the day of the celebration.  Johnny (“Rooster”) Byron (a breakout role for Augustus Truhn) lives in a trailer in the woods, raising hell and selling drugs. Rooster is a former “Evil Knievel” type daredevil who has broken every bone in his body.  He is facing eviction; his trailer and campsite are eyesores for new housing developments going up on the edge of the woods.  

Augustus Truhn as Rooster Byron.
Rooster is an unapologetic rogue who justifies his meager drug dealer income as a community service to keep his teenage customers safe.  Truhn’s performance as Rooster is flawless; he dominates the stage.  He can go from drunken bully to flawed father in a heartbeat.  He carries the story through the sheer weight of his performance.  Truhn’s Rooster is an invincible force of nature, always in total control of the chaos around him.  Casting him as Rooster was a coup for The Edge; he is the high octane fuel that careens Jerusalem off the road and into the wilderness.  

There are 13 other actors on The Edge stage, none of whom shrink away from the task of working in the orbit of the dynamic Truhn.  John Brown (Ginger) is particularly notable in that regard.  He’s a capable foil for the volatile Rooster, standing up to him even when he’s physically threatened.  Brown skillfully uses his facial gestures to augment his lines, sneering, leering, and smirking at exactly the right moments.  

Mark Collins (Wesley) also stands out as the drug addicted dancing pub owner who long ago lost his dignity.  Collins puts a likable veneer on Wesley’s dark side, but in the presence of Rooster, he acknowledges his demons and will do anything for whatever drugs he can
Foreground:  Mark Collins (Wesley) and John Brown (Ginger)
score.

Rick Williams (Professor) has the gravitas to bring some academic and intellectual credibility to Rooster.  Williams is intoxicated and comatose for part of his performance; the other characters take him for dead.  However, he’s very much alive, and his performance makes him one of the funniest characters in Jerusalem.

It’s a large and very talented cast; I could go on about all of them.  Suffice it to say that every one of these 14 actors give director Warren Sherrill 100% of that talent.  

Sherrill’s direction is focused and creative.  "Blocking" is the physical placement of actors for each line of dialogue; Sherill’s blocking includes actually hiding three actors on the stage in the first act.  When they suddenly appear out of thin air, one can’t help but realize how remarkably well Sherrill has thought out this production.  His touch is especially visible in a kissing scene between Rooster and his wife Dawn (Emily Paton Davies).  It’s awkward.  It’s forced.  The chemistry is lacking.  The audience senses that Davies is only tolerating the kiss; she pulls away, disgusted with Rooster.  Sherrill puts exactly the right touch on an important moment in Butterworth’s script.  

Jerusalem is an “epic” production (the quote is from producer Rick Yaconis).  By that he means it’s nearly 3 hours long.  In his curtain speech, Yaconis tells the audience that it will be “the fastest 3 hours of your life.”  I think he’s right.  Sherrill’s pacing is furious; there’s not a wasted moment in the entire 3 hours.  There’s no lag, no drag, no pauses in the action.  Even the scene changes, requiring some shifting of props, are seamless.  Sherrill’s non-stop direction makes the running time seem shorter than it really is.

If I have any quibbles with Jerusalem, those quibbles are based on the script.  Three hours is very demanding of the audience; I think there were some efficiencies that could have been made with judicious edits.  It was also somewhat distracting to have new characters introduced late in the second act.  

Butterworth has two messages here, if I correctly interpreted Jerusalem.  The first is that in some ways, we still sacrifice our children much like in the Legend of St. George nearly 2,000 years ago.  Second, we are prone to mistreat the rebellious (here, Rooster) when they refuse to conform to our expectations.  Both messages are valid, and Butterworth has painfully illustrated the consequences of both messages.  Those consequences are brutal and vivid in Jerusalem.  

The Edge production of Jerusalem is first rate.  You may not find a better, more compelling piece of “edgy” theater for a very long time.  It’s not for everyone, but for those who are looking for a provocative, profound, and rewarding 3 hours of marvelous theater, look no further.  Book a trip to Jerusalem.  The one in Lakewood, not the one in Israel.  The Who no longer slam their guitars into amps at the end of the show.  Jerusalem may be the only way to recreate the sense of profound amazement you get when witnessing a spectacularly entertaining but decadent performance.

NOTES:

This show is appropriate for adults only.  

As mentioned above, there are 2 pages of British slang translations in the program.  It is very helpful for understanding the script.  I highly recommend reading those two pages before the show starts.

There is free parking (off street) at the theater.



TICKETS HERE:  

This show will close on May 24, 2015.


PRE/POST SHOW DINING RECOMMENDATION:

Max’s Mexican Restaurant at 6999 W. Colfax, is about a 3 minute walk from the theater (and no, you don’t have to cross Colfax to get there).  It’s a small family run Mexican restaurant frequented by locals. Nothing fancy, but authentic Mexican food and some burgers for the gringos.  The prices are reasonable; I walked in around 1:00 PM and asked if they still served breakfast.  They did.  I had the ham and cheese omelette for $7.00.  It comes with hash browns and toast; add a coffee and you can still get out for about $10.00.



CREATIVE TEAM:

Producer:  Rick Yaconis

Production Coordinator:  Lara Maerz

Director:  Warren Sherrill

Lighting Designer:  Kevin Taylor

Sound Designer:  Ren Manley

Set Designer:  Chrisopher Waller

Costume Designer:  Brynn Starr Coplan

Stage Manager:  Michelle Megan Blake

Assistant Stage Manager: Andrew KC Nicholas

Photography:  RDG/Rachel Graham


CAST:

Johnny “Rooster” Byron:  Augustus Truhn

Phaedra: Bethany Richardson

Ms. Fawcett:  Erica Fox

Mr. Parsons:  Peter Marullo

Professor:  Rick Williams

Davey:  Ben Hilzer

Tanya:  Samara Bridwell

Wesley:  Mark Collins

Dawn:  Emily Paton Davies

Ginger: John Brown

Lee:  John Hauser

Pea:  Ren Manley

Markey:  Harrison Lyles-Smith

Troy:  Mark Stith