AND did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?
And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic Mills?
Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.
"Would to God that all the Lord's people were Prophets."
--Numbers, xi. ch., 29 v.
--William Blake, from preface to his epic Milton a Poem in 2 Books,
To Justify the Ways of God to Men, (1804-1808)
In a speech at the end of this play inspired by Blake's poem, Johnny "Rooster" Byron beats on a drum and summons the spirits of his ancestors to defend a small piece of G-d's green earth on which he has been squatting for decades, to fend off the County authorities, whose arrival and razing of his trailer, shed, and threadbare possessions is imminent.
If award-winning playwright, screenwriter, and film director, Jez Butterworth, set out to undermine societal conventions at every level, then he succeeded in every way imaginable.
That this all-around impressive and intimate production features Augustus Truhn as Rooster, a role in which Mark Rylance won the Tony in 2011, is a blessing because, in the wake of his performance, we cannot it imagine it performed any better anywhere.
Much like Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, written nearly a century later than Jerusalem, the verdant and bucolic woods, in which Rooster lives, are being threatened by estates for the noveau riche. During this same period of time, Euro-Americans nearly wiped out all Native American and buffalo populations from North America.
Rooster will have none of it, defying bourgeois society by inviting his friends and underage neophytes to party on and imbibe accordingly. His troupe of dreamers and misfits is a panoply of characters not seen since the days of King Lear and Rob in the Hood.
The emotional detail and abandon of Truhn's sets a high bar for the ensemble which largely measure up.
|Mike Hartman as Dad Lewis|
Photo: Jennifer M. Koskinen
Denver Center Theatre Company's world premiere of Eric Schmiedl's Benediction, based on the novel by Kent Haruf, runs through March 1st. For tickets: 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org.