Keeping the Beat

Jack kerouac

 Originally reviewed in May 2002 at the Thirteenth Street Repertory.)

The wistfully lyrical “Jack Kerouac — Last Call” is really meant for Beat Generation fans only, but if that’s you, it will reward you well.

We see Kerouac sitting alone next to a bottle of Johnnie Walker and a plastic cup, doing what he did best in the later years of his life — drinking and brooding. Approaching the end of his life, he’s visited by his past and his future, as it were — the past in the form of literary pals Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg, the future in the form of two biographers deciding how to portray him for posterity.

The play is more about impressions of Kerouac than revelations about him. It conveys some sense of his passion for life and people, his free-associative, jazzlike writing style, and his alcoholic breakdown. Even more, as he spars with his writing pals over the past, we get a feeling for how he bridged Cassady’s free spirit and Ginsberg’s intellect without ever equaling either one in these respects. We’re meant to see the “On the Road” author’s achievements and originality through the melancholy perceptions of a sad and dying middle-aged man.

John Jordan does a capable job as Kerouac, while Kyle Pierson plays the more macho, adventurous anti-intellectual Cassady and Gavin Smith is nebbishy as Ginsberg. It helps to have a little knowledge about the characters involved (at least you should know that Ginsberg was openly gay, the other writers were not above sleeping with one another whether technically bisexual or whatever, and Kerouac is well known to have drunk himself to death while living miserably with his mother). The play is not likely to stimulate an interest in the Beat writers in audience members who don’t know them, but for those who do, it tries to give a deeper feeling for their most prominent member’s life, death, spirit and what he’s left to us today.

MAY 16, 2002
OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK

http://www.offoffoff.com/theater/2002/jackkerouac.php3

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