Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Faultline is currently presenting a stunning production of Jon Lipsky's Maggie's Riff, a bebop turn on Jack Kerouac's first love Maggie Cassidy, directed with great flair by Cole Ferriauolo. Three actors beautifully portray the characters in this 75-minute, fast-paced, energy-driven drama in the intimate theatre.
Maggie's Riff is a memory play made up of a series of riffsshort sceneswith Kerouac (Paul Rodrigues) in a small nightclub back in 1962 (like the Anxious Asp on Grant Avenue where I first met him) where he has been invited to do a reading of his book.
Kerouac reminisces about being a track star in Lowell, Massachusetts, where he eventually won a football scholarship. He also talks about his first great love Maggie (Nicole Odell). He knows the scholarship will take him away from Maggie and he is torn between staying with her or going away to college. The young Kerouac hangs out with best chum Mouse (JD Scalzo), who will do anything to get Jack his scholarship and break up the burgeoning romance. This is accompanied by a jazzy, bluesy beat provided by Rich Lesnik on sax, behind a well-lit screen, vividly playing the musical riffs by Adam Lipsky.
Paul Rodrigues is outstanding as Jack Kerouac. As he enters the stage with his wrinkled trench coat, smoking a cigarette, he actually morphs into Kerouac. The role demands rapid dialogue tempos and frazzled physical action, and he skillfully provides them all. Rodrigues brings a certain boyish charm to the teenager as well as self-assurance and audacious flamboyance.
JD Scalzo shines as the best friend Mouse. He careens all over the stage in relentless whirls and boastfulness, with his body in constant motion. It's one of the liveliest performances I have seen this year. Nicole Odell plays Maggie and she is absolutely charming, with pleasing singing chops when delivering Adam Lipsky's songs.
Maggie's Riff has evocative shadow projections by Ouroboros Pictures with the shadow design by Alisa Javitz. These projections depict Kerouac's boyhood in Lowell and the beat years of New York and California. They add to the dreamlike atmosphere. Director Cole Ferriauolo keeps the action flowing from scene to scene and has the three actors moving constantly around the shadows. Evan Wardell's sound design is pitch perfect also.
This is one of the most exciting productions I have seen this year with a stellar cast and production team.
Maggie's Riff plays at PianoFight, 144 Taylor Street, San Francisco through June 11th, 2016, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 Tickets can be obtain to www.faultlinetheater.com.