Talking to Jason Alexander about ‘Judgment Day’ on Navy Pier, and why George Costanza has the best fans

Jason Alexander, best known for playing George Costanza on “Seinfeld,” is starring in a new play “Judgement Day” at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, opening in a world premiere Wednesday. It’s the story of a corrupt attorney lawyer who’s threatened with eternal damnation, directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel. Alexander, who lives in Los Angeles, recently spoke over a drink at Sable on Navy Pier. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Give me the scooperama on this project.

A: It’s a dark comedy. Let’s call it a comedy. The writer, Rob Ulin, and I are both ceramicists. He had the shelf above mine at our communal studio. He is better than me.

Q: You just gave me my story.

A: Welcome. We did a reading on Zoom over the pandemic. It was a lot of fun. I had no idea if it had a future or not. All of a sudden it came around and Moritz came on, and they mentioned they thought they could get a production in Chicago, where I never have spent any real time. The truth is that I live more in my director’s hat these days.

Q: You did “The Cottage” on Broadway, a good time.

A: Yes. This one is a really fun part and there is a lot to do. My guy is sleazy, selfish and an immoral human being and I am giving nothing away plot-wise by telling you that in the first minute and a half, he dies and goes to the great beyond, only to be informed that he is going back and if he has any chance of staying out of hell, it is going to be by doing good deeds. He doesn’t have to be a good person, and that becomes a big plot point, because heaven only cares about what you do, not your feelings or your reasons. You do good things, you’re in. Interesting premise. My character doesn’t want to be good. His internal battle is, can I stay true to who I am while trying to be a good person? Hopefully, hilarity ensues.

Q: Sounds like an old-school commercial comedy.

A: Yes, something in the world of Chris Durang or Neil Simon.

Q: You must get offered a few of these?

A: It’s interesting what I get offered. New York thinks of me with a little greater span of ideas than does Hollywood. In Hollywood, most of the offers for me are one of two things: either a schmuck or some variation of George Costanza.

Q: What does another variation of George mean to the Hollywood suits these days?

A: The cartoonish, buffoonish, everyman kind of thing. The bumbler. I already played the best-written one that ever is going to exist. I don’t need to act anymore, as my therapist understands. I do love it, especially in something like this where you have wonderful creative people in the room — and I like engaging with an audience. That’s rewarding. I think my problem is with ground I have trod before, or where I can tell going in that I am going to have to try and lift the material. I would rather be lifted by the material.

Q: You are used to very good material.

A: I am. But there is a joy in working with something but has not yet reached its fully flavored bouquet — as the Häagen-Dazs folks would say.

Q: How do you sit with your fame these days? Has it morphed from invasive to pleasant?

I never looked it as invasive. Depending on where I was, it could be a little more consistent. But I always felt very blessed that I never had intrusive reactions. I never had paparazzi. I am boring to them. I used to make the joke, based on the “Seinfeld” joke, that is was interesting how our four individual fan bases worked out. Jerry got the girls in their 20s who thought he was adorable. Julia got lonely men and convicts. Michael had crazy people. And I had the mothers of the girls who liked Jerry. Mothers who thought “I can fix him.” So my fan base generally was lovely people.

Maybe it’s getting older or the pandemic or a combination, but I’ve come to really enjoy, and maybe crave, the lower profile. Being in the public eye has become very unimportant to me. My publicist would go, “don’t say that.” But I don’t mind living a quieter kind of life.

Q: “Seinfeld” has new young fans.

It had another resurgence with Netflix. I am kind of gobsmacked. I thought it was such a wonderful product of its time, but a product of its time. I had no idea it would sustain like classic comedies. My kids never watched until they went to college and they found it because all their friends were watching.

Q: They don’t all watch on a Thursday night anymore.

A: We don’t do anything together anymore.

Q: What have you been doing in our town?

A: I went to see “Purpose” at Steppenwolf Theatre. It was unbelievable. And they went into rehearsal with only 40 pages written. I told my cast it was mandatory to go. I walked into my rehearsal very intimidated. I went to see my friend Cindy Gold in a play (“Wipeout”) in a storefront theater which was great.

Q: Rivendell, wow. So are you on board if your show goes to New York?

A: It’s an awfully fun role and I can see doing more of it. But I don’t think we will know what we have until the Chicago audience tells us. And, well, let’s do show-and-tell, it’s easier. (He shows a photo of his grandson.) I’m missing 10 weeks of this person’s life and if I go to New York, then he’ll be even more of a different person when I get back. There are many good reasons to do that, and I don’t want to live my life exclusively for him or anyone. But that is a huge opportunity cost for me. He owns me and he knows it.

“Judgement Day” runs through May 26 in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand Ave.; 312-595-5600 and

Chris Jones is a Tribune critic.