Kerouac: The Essence of Jack | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Kerouac: The Essence of Jack 

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

Jack Kerouac died in 1969, but when the man calling himself by that name took the stage of the Julian Theatre in San Francisco's North Beach district in 1986, even those who had known Kerouac personally swore that the king of the beats had returned from the dead. His resurrectionist, of course, was Vince Balestri, whose one-man show Kerouac: The Essence of Jack has appeared over the last 12 years in more places around the country than Presley's ghost--even in Kerouac's hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts. Balestri begins his astonishing impersonation by assuming the personality of his subject and then proceeding to chat casually about his life and work: how he abandoned a football career at Columbia University after a mystical vision recalling the death of his younger brother and changed his major to English literature; how the publishers of On the Road exploited his novel and turned him into a James Dean/Marlon Brando clone; how he instructed the undertaker who would someday lay him out to make him look like "the good Catholic boy" of his first dust-jacket photograph. Then our gracious host invites members of the audience to ask him questions about his life and his opinions on the world 24 years after his death. This is working without a net, but Balestri and his accompanist (Jim Christopher, impresario of the Wednesday-night jam at the renowned Get Me High) neither flinch nor waiver as they rap and riff. Kerouac is playing at the Organic Greenhouse only two more weeks before traveling to Seattle, after which Balestri has announced that he will retire the show permanently--making this our last chance to see his stellar homage to the writer whose voice continues to influence American literature to this day. Organic Theater Company Greenhouse Lab Theater, 3319 N. Clark, 327-5588. Through December 19: Thursdays-Fridays, 8 PM; Saturdays, 9:30 PM; Sundays, 7 PM. $10.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Mary Shen Barnidge

Agenda Teaser

Galleries & Museums
October 23
Performing Arts
Love, Chaos & Dinner Hotel Cambria
July 24

Tabbed Event Search

Popular Stories