Jason Alexander wicked good in ‘Judgment Day’ at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

‘Seinfeld’ star appears in world-premiere comedy

Jason Alexander (at right) stars as a corrupt lawyer visited by a terrifying angel, played by Candy Buckley, after a near death experience in the world premiere comedy Judgment Day. In The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare through May 26, 2024. Photo by Liz Lauren.

Long before Jason Alexander became a household favorite for his work on “Seinfeld,” he was an award-winning Broadway actor. Alexander brings all his Hollywood star power and Broadway talent to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater stage in a dazzling performance in “Judgment Day.”

Helmed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel, a Tony-nominated director, the world-premiere comedy is tailor-made for Alexander. It features a script by the Golden Globe and Peabody Award-winning writer Rob Ulin. Alexander, Stuelpnagel and Ulin join forces to create a hilarious show.

Here’s a synopsis of what you need to know.

Sammy Campo (Alexander) is a bad man – an unscrupulous lawyer so corrupt that when he dies, there is no question he’s damned to hell. But thanks to his ethically devoid way of thinking and uncanny ability to negotiate, he finds a loophole that sends him back to Earth. He hasn’t changed at all, and simply wants to figure out a way to do enough good things to get into heaven without being a good person.

Campo is perhaps the most self-centered person in the world. There is nothing he wouldn’t do to satisfy his own best interests. In life, that means cheating, lying and stealing in pursuit of money. Campo doesn’t appear capable of love or any kind of maturity.

Through Ulin’s witty dialogue and plot devices, and Alexander’s own delivery, charm and comic timing, he makes Campo hysterically funny. Somehow, in fact, Alexander even makes Campo likable.

As he tries to avoid a horrific afterlife, Campo figures doing good must be on some kind of point system. In fact, he gets into quite the theological discussion with Father Michael, played brilliantly by the talented Daniel Breaker. This is the launching point of Father Michael’s own exploration of self and pursuit of understanding what’s right.

Daniel Breaker and Michael Kostroff in the world premiere comedy Judgment Day. In The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare through May 26, 2024. Photo by Liz Lauren.

It is also the launching point of an interesting collaborative relationship between Campo and Father Michael as both strive to do right for their own reasons. Neither believes their deeds would meet the church’s approval. However, in both cases, they are doing what they think God ultimately wants.

Breaker is a recognizable and respected talent from Broadway, film and television. As Father Michael, he is often the straight man for Alexander’s Campo, but he gets his laughs, too. If Alexander is the heart of the show, Breaker is the backbone.

Ulin comes from a TV background, and the remaining characters make up a well-rounded, sitcom-like cast. Each one makes their appearance to add laughs and move the story forward.

Maggie Bofill is delightful as Campo’s wife whom he walked out on 10 years earlier. She brings all the seriousness the character requires without losing sight of the comedy goals of the evening. I loved her performance.

Jason Alexander and Ellis Myers in the world premiere comedy Judgment Day. In The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare through May 26, 2024. Photo by Liz Lauren.

Casper is Campo’s 10-year-old son who has grown up without his father and turned out angry at the world. Ellis Myers is a joy to watch as he delivers the goods – either angelic or demonic as needed.

Father Michael’s emerging moral and ethical quandaries after his conversations with Campo allow the introduction of the character of Monsignor. Michael Kostroff is comedy money-in-the-bank, hitting every opportunity the script allows – and many that jump far beyond the page.

Olivia D. Dawson plays multiple roles, each with a memorable slant. Della, Campo’s long-time secretary and keeper of secrets, is wonderfully deadpan. As the principal of yet another school trying to expel Campo’s son, she is professional with a hint of chaos underneath.

Meg Thalken doesn’t have much stage time, but makes every moment memorable as a good-hearted, church-going widow about to lose everything because of a corrupt insurance company. Joe Dempsey is a hoot as a cranky and crooked insurance adjuster.

Then there is the splashy showstopper – Candy Buckley as Campo’s former Catholic schoolteacher, a nun who detested him in life. Long dead, she has risen to the rank of angel, and looks forward to seeing her former pupil’s soul suffer eternally. Buckley is a scream!

With sitcom-style pacing, there are a lot of short scenes with precision-timing gags, but all done within the structure of a conventional two-act comedy. It makes for a smash that will please both theater folk and those more accustomed to traditional television.

The costuming by Tilly Grimes is done with a very specific eye to detail. Campo is a man so morally corrupt Monsignor thinks he may be the Devil, something slyly expressed in his attire.

Excellent lights and sound are by Amith Chandrashaker and Mikaal Sulaiman, respectively. For scenic design, Beowulf Boritt uses an appropriately religious as well as legally themed background piece with other smaller units whisked in and out to create the reality of an office, classroom, apartment or whatever else is needed.

Requiring only a relatively small cast, and filled with side-splitting comedy, “Judgment Day” eventually will become a favorite among theaters around the country when the rights become available. And while many talented actors will bring joy to theatergoers in the role of Sammy Campo, none will do it with quite the same magic as Jason Alexander.

Putting the talents of Stuelpnagel, Alexander and Ulin together on a world-premiere play, in collaboration with a company as respected as Chicago Shakespeare Theater, might suggest hopes the show will end up on Broadway. Currently, three Chicago Shakespeare productions are there now.

• Rikki Lee Travolta is an award-winning creative talent with a background in theater, film, television, music and literature. He is an outspoken voice for those living with disabilities (www.LifeandTimes.biz). Living in McHenry County, he credits special assistance on this review to Deborah Swinford and others.


• WHAT: “Judgment Day”

• WHERE: The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, at Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand Ave., Chicago

• WHEN: Through May 26

• INFORMATION: www.ChicagoShakes.com, 312-595-5600

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