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Exploring Life’s Essence: Jason Alexander Stars in ‘Judgment Day’

There is no sign of neurotic George Costanza in Sammy Campo, the dubious attorney portrayed by Jason Alexander at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater this month in “Judgment Day,” a new comedy by playwright Rob Ulin.

Directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel, the play features Alexander as a lawyer who reevaluates his life following a near-death encounter that unveils his uncertain fate in the afterlife. He shares the stage with Daniel Breaker, known for his role in “Hamilton,” who plays a conflicted Catholic priest.

Ulin, with a background in television writing for series like “Roseanne” and “Malcolm in the Middle,” brings his expertise to this theatrical debut. Alexander, a Tony Award winner for “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway,” expresses his early enthusiasm for the production, which he joined during a Zoom reading amidst the pandemic. He recently marked his Broadway directorial debut with “The Cottage.”

In a pre-rehearsal interview with WBEZ, Alexander discusses his perspective on the show:

Q. What aspect of this production resonates with you the most?

A. The paramount requirement for a comedy is humor, and this show delivers on that front. It is not only humorous but also offers a deeper layer to contemplate. The characters grapple with profound questions and real-life issues while navigating a comedic narrative intertwined with a supernatural twist of a man facing the prospect of missing out on heaven.

Q. Your character in the play, initially described as a disreputable, unethical lawyer, presents a unique challenge. How did you approach portraying him?

A. I simply embody the character. Once I established Sammy’s physicality and vocal nuances, the character’s essence unfolded naturally. I aimed to infuse him with a blend of crudeness and vulnerability, creating a portrayal that is both unsavory yet oddly charming.

Q. Given the enduring popularity of “Seinfeld,” is it challenging to detach from the character of George Costanza when taking on new roles?

A. I do not feel compelled to distance myself from George Costanza. While he remains a part of my legacy, I embrace the opportunity to explore diverse roles. Audiences attending the Chicago Shakespeare Theater will encounter a different persona, and how they perceive it is entirely up to them.

Q. What creative liberties does theater offer that differ from television?

A. Theater provides a unique thrill rooted in the unpredictability of live performances. The immediate connection with the audience, the absence of a safety net, and the raw authenticity of each show make theater an unparalleled experience for those drawn to its challenges.

Q. After delving into directing, how does returning to acting feel for you?

A.: Acting brings me immense joy and a sense of fulfillment. Focusing solely on my performance allows me to immerse myself in the role and relish the experience. While directing intrigued me due to the desire for fresh challenges, acting remains a passion that continues to inspire me.

Q. What message do you hope audiences will grasp from this production?

A.: “Judgment Day” explores the notion that one’s actions, rather than one’s inherent nature, pave the path to redemption and salvation. It poses thought-provoking ideas that invite reflection and discussion, aiming to offer substance and depth beyond mere entertainment.