A CurtainUp Review
No Great Society
Here's the original review by Les Gutman
The two parts of No Great Society cover Kerouac's appearances on two television shows: William F. Buckley's Firing Line, the year before Kerouac died, and then a late fifties Steve Allen show, at the height of Jack's notoriety. Though ERS presents a clearly fictional account of the events, Kerouac was in fact on both shows, and all or portions of the real things are available on DVD (and even online) nowadays.
The Firing Line show, which is presented first, finds Buckley (Ben Williams) hosting Jack (Susie Sokol) on a panel with Lewis Yablonsky (Vin Knight), a sociologist who wrote a book about hippie culture, and Ed Sanders (Scott Shepherd), a musician, poet and radical. The subject: "The Hippies". Two things made this episode great: no one on stage could persuasively define what a hippie was, and Jack was blazingly drunk. ERS plays the transcript of the show fairly straight -- a wise decision since it has all of the humor and pathos one could ever need. Williams has his Buckley impression down pat, and Sokol, a fine physical comedian, has a field day interpreting Jack's behavior.
For the Steve Allen segment, ERS takes far greater license. On the actual show, Allen played jazz on his piano while Kerouac read selections from On the Road and Visions of Cody. Here, instead, they have chosen to have Williams (who loses his Buckley wig and gains a pair of Allen eyeglasses for the transtion) playing the keys while Sokol replicates a film narration (sans the film) involving the visit of a bishop to a "beat" apartment on Bleecker Street. (For Kerouac fans, the actual film is Pull My Daisy.) The enterprise implodes under Kerouac's increasingly berserk and spasmodic behavior, and Sokol's inability to do justice to the material. At one point, Allen leaves Kerouac onstage while he goes out for tea; many in the audience were probably ready for something stronger.
Toward the end, with the actors from the Firing Line segment joining in, the show morphs into one of ERS's signature movement pieces, which is always entertaining but not, in this case, redeeming.
LINKS TO REVIEWS OF SOME OTHER ELEVATOR REPAIR SERVICE SHOWS
Total Fictional Lie
Highway to Tomorrow