note: entire contents copyright 2008 by Beverly Creasey
Jack Kerouac, considered to be the pied piper of the beat writers, died a lonely, broken man unable to embrace the cultural revolution of the ‘60s, which hailed fellow beats like William Burroughs, Allen Ginsburg and Neal Cassady as their heroes. In Patrick Fenton’s new bio-drama, KEROUAC’S LAST CALL (at Boston Playwrights Theatre through June 26) Kerouac reminisces about his days “ON THE ROAD” with Cassady before his friend defected to Ken Kesey’s camp of “Merry Pranksters.” Cassady drove Kesey’s magic bus (christened “Further”) to visit Kerouac and entice him to join for a ride---but Kerouac didn’t much like the notion that his generation had spawned the hippie counterculture. And he preferred Mel Torme to Gerry Garcia!
Fenton’s play flashes back to scenes of bitter confrontation with the psychedelics over a desecrated American flag and crushing disappointment when some college kids took the pains to look him up in New York, then couldn’t believe the drunken, middle aged Kerouac was the same man whose accounts of the “real” America inspired a generation.
It seems fitting that IMAGE THEATER (which cleverly stamps the mock manufacturing logo “Made in Lowell” on all their publicity) should be producing a play about Lowell’s favorite son. Director Ann Garvin gets sharp performances from the supporting cast: Lida McGirr as Jack’s difficult, demanding mother, Jack Dacey as his rough-edged, hard drinking father, Jenney Dale as the heartbroken daughter he denies and Steve O’Connor as the charismatic Cassady.
The main reason to see KEROUAC’S LAST CALL is Jerry Bisantz’ tour de force performance as the dissolute, disillusioned shell of a man credited with writing the great American Odyssey. The same world that passed him by capitalized on his death. The original manuscript of ON THE ROAD was sold at auction not long ago for two million dollars.