note: entire contents copyright 2008 by Janine de Souza
Jack Kerouac, famous for his novel, “On the Road”, did the ultimate road trip. During the late 40’s, Kerouac crisscrossed the country with Neal Cassady in search of the real America. Later, this road less traveled would influence future free thinkers such as Jerry Garcia and others. Although he helped to create a new counterculture, Kerouac was politically conservative and never fully embraced nor immersed himself in this new world. It was a world he would later come to despise.
As poignantly directed by Ann Garvin in the dramatic play, KEROUAC’S LAST CALL, now playing at Boston Playwrights Theatre through July 26th, Kerouac was a man in conflict, constantly straddling two very different worlds. A good example is the road trip itself. Inwardly he craved and still even believed in the idealistic America of his childhood with its fairytale endings, but outwardly Kerouac actively fought against the materialist trappings of picket fences and 2.5 children. These inward struggles spilled over his personal life as well. In KEROUAC’S LAST CALL, Kerouac refuses to acknowledge his paternity to his daughter who keeps trying to connect with him. Yet, Kerouac tenderly caresses a worn picture of her as a child. There was the constant friction between his blue collar upbringing in Lowell and his thirst for new ideas and intellectual stimulation. It was a love/hate relationship with life, the ultimate dichotomy for a man searching for freedom only to become a prisoner in his own private hell of dependency to alcohol, his demanding mother, the unrelenting memory of his dead brother, and the expectations of the public.
Jerry Bisantz, pulls out all the stops as Kerouac, to capture the complex roller coaster ride of feelings and emotions of this barely functioning lost soul. He avoids the “usual falling down drunk” portrayal, but skillfully and deftly captures the subtleties of the well-known writer as he maneuvers around the stage in a series of flashbacks with musical interludes. Ann Garvin’s facile direction and Bisantz’ scruffy ferocity keep this 1 ½ hour drama moving in the fast lane. Deserving of mention and holding their own against this powerhouse performance are Lida McGirr (Jack’s overbearing mother), Jack Dacey (Jack’s uninterested father), Jenney Dale (Jack’s illegitimate daughter), and Steve O’Connor (his friend Neal Cassady).
So take a quick trip to Boston and see KEROUAC’S LAST CALL. You’ll be glad you’re on the road again!