nytheatre.com review by Tim Cusack
I’ve seen the best minds of my generation destroyed by the image factory
spewing air-brushed toxins into the psychic air. Apologies to Allen
Ginsberg for this bastardization of his language, but the introductory
(and instantly recognizable) line of his poem howl keeps
richocheting around my skull after seeing Kelly Groves’ production of
beat. at the Culture Project. Since Ginsberg’s seminal (pun-intended)
work popularized the ideal that anyone could be a poet, I figured Allen
wouldn’t mind me adding my own line to his poem for the purposes of this
review. After all Groves seems to have no problem appropriating
Ginsberg’s work for his own agenda. That his agenda is well-meaning is
beyond argument. However, good intentions don’t excuse the
misrepresentations that abound in his casting and arrangement of
incident. That he is obviously talented makes these little dishonesties
all the more depressing.
August 15, 2002
In fact much talent, both on stage and off, is apparent in the production, but the smooth professionalism displayed manifests a bizarre cognitive dissonance with its subject matter. beat. presents, in the manner of Moises Kaufman’s Tectonic Theatre, the genesis and initial public performance of, and obscenity trial against, Ginsberg’s first masterpiece. In exploring the sources of Ginsberg’s inspiration for the work, Groves maps Allen’s introduction to the group of men who would become the Beat writers, his affairs (mostly one-sided) with Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, and his mother’s hospitalization for severe schizophrenia. Two hours of this boils down to the simple platitudes that censorship is bad and Ginsberg should be enshrined in the great hall of good gay martyrs—all of it in politely earnest good taste, the exact antithesis of its guiding spirit’s prankish Jewish bodhittsava persona.
Presented in an approximation of the anarchic gathering of the period, the show has all of the choreographed anarchy of a Gap khakis commercial. The cast, too, seems ready for their national campaigns. Not that Allen would complain, mind you—there’s not a bad looker in the lot of them—but hardly any of the raw sexual energy that made the Beats such a cultural phenomenon. Dan Pintauro as Ginsberg turns in a solid performance—nuanced, well-spoken—but his perfect California hair and skin have absolutely nothing to do with the actual Ginsberg. You see, one of the ironies of Ginsberg’s life was that he was a fat, balding, ugly man who also had enormous sexual charisma. Imagine that. But I guess in the post-Urinetown world of this year’s FringeNYC, ugly is the love that dare not speak its name.