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LETTERS TO EDITOR
|A CurtainUp Review
by Jenny Sandman
The play takes place on the last night of Kerouac's life, at his mother's house in Florida. As he dies, his life flashes before his eyes; he relives scenes from his youth and discusses his impending death with Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg as two newspaper writers compose his obituary. An interesting concept, to be sure, but one which the script doesn't support. Kerouac, Cassady and Ginsberg are all portrayed as slightly pretentious caricatures of themselves, having a conversation they would never have had. Kerouac wallows in self-pity, lashes out at his closest friends, and he spends the play drinking Scotch, which he hated, rather than the cheap wine he loved. The token female character feels gratuitous; the conceit of the writers composing Kerouac's obituary only trips up the already halting pace and adds little to our understanding of him. Somehow these most charismatic of men have been rendered into leaden, timorous pseudo-intellectuals. Worst of all, the structure is weak and static, with no clear forward movement, story progression, or character development.
Like so many other great writers, Kerouac could not handle the spotlight and turned to drink, drowning his sorrows and self-doubt in booze. When he died at 47, he was bloated and worn out from constant drinking, a virtual recluse. Peter Stewart, who plays Kerouac, has the tall, dark, ex-football-player mystique of Kerouac, but he's too young and good-looking to convincingly play an overweight, dying alcoholic. He also plays Kerouac as completely bitter and disaffected, more like a professor denied tenure who is lashing out at his colleagues than like the enfant terrible of American literature. The core trio of actors (Stewart, Kyle Pierson as Cassady and Gavin Walker as Ginsberg) unfortunately doesn't begin to have the chemistry or magnetism of the original three. But considering what they had to work with, I'm sure the actors did the best they could.
It's a shame, too. With the right text, with the right actors, with the right staging, this story could be really amazing. But we'll have to wait a bit longer for that.
Editor's Note: Last year CurtainUp critic David Lohrey went to see an earlier production of this play at another venue. When we received an invitation to see it done again at another theater, with a shortened title, some cast changes as well as a new director, we decided to get this second opinion from Jenny Sandman, another Kerouac enthusiast. To read the original review go here
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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