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Maggie’s Riff

 MAGGIE’S RIFF: Drama by Jon Lipsky. Directed by Cole Ferraiuolo. Faultline Theatre, Pianofight, 144 Taylor Street, San Francisco.

Cole Ferraiuolo has beautifully staged Jon Lipsky’s adaptation of Maggie Cassidy, Jack Kerouac’s bittersweet coming of age story. ­­ The time bending plot begins in 1962 and examines Kerouac ‘s memories of 1939; his first love Maggie, his turn as a track star aching to receive a scholarship that would remove him from a dead-end life, and his relationship with best friend Mouse. Fueled by drug use and alcohol, Kerouac, brilliantly acted by Paul Rodrigues, has trouble separating the facts of his youth with the fantasies of his novels.

Rodrigues plays Kerouac as a world weary, troubled soul who looks back nostalgically on the blurred facts of his youth. It’s a tour de force performance that demands quick dialogue rhythms and jittery physical action. Backed by a jazzy score by Lipsky’s son Adam, the play imparts a hypnotic, stream of consciousness rhythm that recalls the Beat and jazz Generation that Kerouac inhabited.

The play is structured in a series of riff’s or segments: The Kiss (Kerouac’s sexual coming of age with Maggie), The Vows (Kerouac and best friend plan not to die in Lowell), The Death (Maggie’s grammy dies as does Maggie and Jack’s romance), The Choice (Jack decides to flee to California and write, Zig is trapped in Lowell), The Lights Out Dance finale where Jack and the audience witness his inability to delineate fact from fiction.

Jack Paul Rodrigues) and his high school bro Mouse (JD Scalzo)

Jack Paul Rodrigues) and his high school bro Mouse (JD Scalzo)

JD Scalzo is excellent as Kerouac’s best friend Mouse, wiry, jumpy and full of dreams. Committed to supporting their flight to freedom from the dead-end life in Lowell, he’ll do anything to get Jack his track scholarship and breakup Jack’s budding romance. The interaction between these two pals is wonderfully staged by Ferraiuolo, as is the shadow projected Dr. Sax (Rich Lesnik) who provides the jazzy backdrop to Kerouac’s monologues. Nicole Odell plays the boldly sensual, then discarded lover Maggie sensitively.

Maggie Cassidy on which Maggie’s Riff is based might be considered a beginners course on Kerouac, less meaty than his other works, less opaque than his heavier, run on sentence prose. Lipsky’s play provides a nice primer into Kerouac’s style and a lovely universal story of youth, romance and self-discovery.

Performances are May 20th thru June 11th. Thursdays @7:30pm, Fridays @7:30pm, Saturdays
@7:30pm & Sundays @ 6pm. Performances will take place at PianoFight at 144 Taylor Street in San Francisco.