A fable of our recent literary past, Jack Kerouac,
physically gone since his untimely demise in 1969 at the tender age of
forty-seven, has never been forgotten. His words and reputation live on. In
KEROUAC, author Tom OíNeil has invented a strange universe in which a
dying Kerouac witnesses the composition of his own obituary by two anonymous
writers even as he relives representations of his past, including dialogues
with Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsburg.
To be sure, and straight up, KEROUAC is a
different, difficult and flawed piece. Part exposition, part premonition,
part reevaluation, there are few facts and much supposition at work here.
Thatís okay, but what remains murky is the ultimate intent of the
playwright. Sure, he sparks an interest in Kerouac, as well as
contemporaries Ginsberg and Cassady, but as novelties, or worse, figures
whom we came to the theater being thoroughly familiar with. Surely, thereís
nothing in the script to illustrate the unique contributions of any of these
men. We are merely told of their reputations, be them of fame or infamy.
Kerouac refers to his dead brother in a series of
lamentations that do help to clarify, a bit, his propensity to drift toward
the dark side. Additionally, there is an "everywoman" character referred to
as Red, a representation of the allegedly numerous women in Kerouacís life.
She gets to do little but flutter her lashes and dance, which makes her
presence purely parenthetical, but also hints at the ways in which Jack
Kerouac related to women Ė from a guarded distance. What we mainly find in
KEROUAC is the story of a man who we remember now because he happened
to have some of his writing published back then. Surely, the intent was to
convey more than this.
So, here then is Tom OíNeilís KEROUAC, a sort of
black-rose bouquet style ode to an author who, unable to deal with his
budding fame, essentially drank himself to death.
- Kessa De Santis -