By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Reality intervenes in the form of two local constables (Sarah Moyle and Harvey Robinson) bearing a court order for him to vacate his corner of paradise that he's trashed up with his hippie commune, a cocaine store that's become party central and a refuge for teens abused at home. A bulldozer awaits to convert this confederation of misfits into a housing estate, propelled by the sundry kickbacks and corruptions that are all too familiar in real estate development worldwide.
Rooster's accusers are so ethically bankrupt themselves that the play simply asks us to question who's worse. This is the formula Euripides employed in The Bacchae, when the god Dionysus arouses the local women into erotic frenzies in the backwoods and must be challenged by the locals — men who are far less interesting than the subject they accuse, and no more moral.
Rooster has been harboring an underage abused girl in his trailer, which raises the real possibility that he's been sleeping with her. So when her abusing stepdad (Barry Sloane) shows up with his band of thugs (Jay Sullivan and Richard Short), it's a showdown of pedophiles. This is partly what renders the sentimental treatment of Rooster's fall so ludicrous.
The other part comes in a scene where Rooster smears the blood from his own injuries onto the face of his son, a child named Marky (Mark Page) — a gesture of empowering the kid with the blood of his clan. This is the same man who may be sleeping with an already abused 15-year-old girl in his trailer — and we're supposed to feel roused by this grasping pretense of nobility? Rylance infuses it with emotional heft, but that does little to resolve the clamorous fakery.
The play is at its best when it paints the whimsical stories of its eccentric characters onto the broad canvas of a national mythology. But it strains to convert a wondrously exotic central character into a tragic hero, against the forces of what? Local pervs? The real estate industry? And that's when it all turns silly.
I still wouldn't miss Rylance's performance for all the world, or at least for England.
JERUSALEM | By Jez Butterworth | Presented by the Royal Court Theatre at the Music Box | 239 W. 45th St., New York | Through Aug. 21 | jerusalembroadway.com