A playwright puts pen to paper in order to share a message with the world. It is meant to be received by an audience, weighed, and understood. Yet in the case of a show that has no discernable meaning, where hours of words crash upon the audience like bricks and nothing is derided, something is very wrong. Such is the case with Jez Butterworth’s indecipherable Jerusalem.
Set in the woods of Wiltshire, England (an impressive set by Ultz, with trees that tower to the top of the Music Box Theatre, far beyond where the audience can see), the perpetually drunk Johnny “Rooster” Byron (played expertly by Mark Rylance) resides with his equally inebriated gang of lost boys and girls. This middle-aged soak enables the group of punks who laze around, acting like fools, in an obvious effort to hold onto a youth that has long escaped him. It is also evident at points that this troubled group of delinquents enables Rooster just as much.
The unsavory bunch congregate at Rooster’s trailer, parked in the middle of the forest, day after day, drunkenly carrying on with music blaring. The well-to-do residents of the area that have grown in numbers over the years have had enough of Rooster & Co. and have successfully petitioned the government to throw them off the land. What ensues is Rooster’s passionate crusade, fueled by a bottomless source of pride, to keep his land and his derelict way of life.
The plot is interesting enough. A colorful character with a penchant for spouting tall tales and has a bunch of goofy, younger sidekicks fights wildly to stake his claim on his land. This would be all well and good if Jerusalem didn’t have a running time of three hours. Other than the storyline I have just outlined, the hours of monologues and exchanges is an incomprehensible blur from which I gleaned no value. Read more
The weather didn’t get the memo that Broadway in Bryant Park still had one more week left in the season. It drizzled on the massive crowd that gathered for the free lunchtime concert’s final show of the summer. But judging from the crowd’s reactions to the buzzy shows that performed, they didn’t seem to mind the rain.
The Cagelles of La Cage aux Folles, this year’s Tony winner for Best Revival of a Musical, took the stage first. I wasn’t surprised that Kelsey Grammer didn’t participate in the event, but Douglass Hodge, the Tony winner for Best Actor, could have showed up to belt out “I Am What I Am.” Instead, their merry mass of transvestites entertained the crowd to exuberant applause. Not donning any feminine garb for “We Are What We Are” did come off a bit strange (“Look under our frocks,” what frocks?!), but their energy was through the roof, especially as they spiked extra large beach balls into the audience. The song began strangely though, as the announcer introduced the song as “What Are We Here For,” and then interrupted the already-in-progress number to give it the correct title. Dale Hensely and Chris Hoch went on as Albin and Georges, respectively, for “With You On My Arm,” which came off dull. The duo then joined the Cagelles for their closing act, “The Best of Times,” in which they paled in comparison to the effusive ensemble.
Video: “We Are What We Are”
Theater journalist Patrick Lee, creator of Just Shows To Go You and Theater Mania contributor, passed away this week at age 47. The news brought great sadness to many in the theater community, myself included. When I think of Patrick, I think of the beginning of my passion for theater writing. Patrick was the first person I met when I set out on this journey.
It was April 2009. I had just created Stage Rush and had been invited by Broadway producer and Producer’s Perspective creator Ken Davenport to attend a theater blogger meet up. It was at the Planet Hollywood in Times Square and I arrived with such a pit in my stomach, I almost turned away at the entrance. Starting this site, this endeavor, felt like a huge risk to me and I didn’t carry myself with much confidence about it. Ken’s invitation to meet up with real, live theater writers who were already established in the field was incredibly intimidating. Who was I to talk to them? Everything out of my mouth was sure to sound stupid. They’d surely laugh when I told them my site was hosted by Blogger.
I sat down at a table with a platter of nachos on it. I picked at it with one hand and dug the nails of my other hand into my leg as the bloggers began to arrive, everyone schmoozing. They all knew each other—damn.
And then Patrick plopped himself in a chair next to me. I turned my head to him with a jolt, as I knew some social interaction was inevitable. He smiled, introduced himself, and I instantly began to feel at ease. It might sound corny, but Patrick seemed so jolly. That’s really the word to describe how he was. He asked me about my blog and as I talked, he continued to ask follow-up questions. He wasn’t looking at me with disgust—he was interested! I told him I was so proud of myself, because I hadn’t even lived in New York for a year yet and I had already seen 40 shows. Patrick looked at me with a big smile and said, “I see over 200 a year!” But he wasn’t mocking me; he was laughing at the hilarity of it. We both had a big laugh. As we talked, we discovered that we both loved Spring Awakening, John Gallagher Jr., and Passing Strange. He told me that he had tickets to a screening of the Passing Strange movie and I pretty much wanted to gouge his eyes out, I was so jealous. I went home that night feeling more confident about my new project, all thanks to Patrick.
That theater blogger meet up lead to the formation of the Independent Theater Bloggers Association (ITBA), for which Patrick served as awards director. When the ITBA was deciding on nominations for this year’s awards, we met at a Hell’s Kitchen pub to discuss candidates. It was a Broadway nerd’s dream—sitting at a table with a group of people with the same interests, discussing who gave the year’s best performances and arguing about them. Patrick was so funny that day. He kept inserting his humorous, sarcastic opinion, then pulling back, because he was moderating the meeting and it was obvious that he was trying to be democratic.
But I am lucky that that was not my last meeting with Patrick. A few weeks ago, Patrick asked me if I would help him film the off-Broadway cast of The Kid reading the winners of this year’s ITBA Awards. We sat there at Theatre Row with Susan Blackwell and Ann Harada and Patrick just got along with them so well. I envied his ease and calming nature. After we filmed, we talked shop for a while outside the theater. He answered a lot of burning questions I had about the theater-writing field. I remember being so grateful to get that time with him. We shared laughs and had a really good time with that errand for the ITBA. We left that night saying we’d meet up for coffee soon, but we didn’t get the chance.
Patrick’s passing is a strong reminder to me that we all have to harness the joys of life while we still have it. Patrick loved theater and was passionate about LGBT rights. In his life, he made quite a mark in both worlds with his own theater site Just Shows To Go You, his bylines for Theater Mania and other sites, and by being a juror for the GLAAD Media Awards. Patrick is an example of following your passion—a lesson we all should learn from him.
On my Facebook homepage, there’s a notification that says “Patrick Lee has poked you. Poke back.” It’s from the night we first met. I never did “poke” him back. But I’m going to keep that message there as a reminder of what Patrick stood for. It just shows to go you the impact theater can have on a person’s life.
During a short bout of procrastination, I was fooling around on Google Maps, using the “street view” function. Since it’s way too cold to take an actual walk through Times Square, I thought it’d be pleasant to go for a virtual stroll instead. While I was “there,” I was looking for clues to discover around what time the photography of the area was taken. Warner Bros. owns the billboard space that hangs above 7th Ave and W 47th St., and that space always advertises the company’s current major release. Low and behold, it was The Brave One, which was released in September 2007. My mind immediately jumped to Spring Awakening, which recently (and sadly) closed on Broadway. I thought, Wouldn’t it be nice to see the old marquee once again?
I decided to “walk” over to the Eugene O’Neil Theatre on 49th St. Once I “arrived,” what did I find there but… the student rush line!! Which means the photographs were taken in the morning, since rush tickets went on sale when the box office opened.
It was nostaligc to see the Spring Awakening student rush line, since I’d rushed the show 11 times (seen the show 18 times though). Spring Awakening‘s rush policy was not only one of the best offered (tickets were always available, and ususally in the first few rows, extreme right and left), but it was also one of the most popular.
It’s also special to see the original posters, featuring original stars John Gallagher Jr., Jonathan Groff, and Lea Michele (before they were later replaced by Blake Bashoff, Kyle Riabko, and Alexandra Socha).
Thus concludes today’s lesson in Broadway rush history.