Maggie’s Riff at FaultLine Theater

by Jerry Cimino

My wife and I had the opportunity to attend the West Coast premiere of Maggie’s Riff at San Francisco’s FaultLine Theater and I am pleased to report it is a damn good play.

FaultLine Theater is a cool little space in the heart of the Tenderloin. Walking past a burly doorman who checks your ID, you enter an snazzy little bar that serves bites and musical entertainment. It’s a nice place to relax as you wait for the show and—important to a Beat fan—you get to take your glass of wine to your seat!
Written by Jon Lipsky, Boston area teacher, director and playwright, this is only the third time Maggie’s Riff has been performed. Director Cole Ferraiuolo breathes life into a wonderful script and obtains magnificent performances from his fiery cast. Musical Director Adam Lipsky hits all the right notes in moving his father’s play along at a brisk pace. Hopefully there will be many more productions of Maggie’s Riff.

The story opens with 16 year old Jack, anxious to get out of Lowell. His best buddy Mouse (a combination of GJ Rigopoulos and other youthful friends including Neal Cassady) plays energetically off of Jack as he joyfully, sullenly and lustfully pursues Maggie Cassidy while dreaming of leaving his hometown for Horace Mann in New York City.

JD Scalzo is the perfect hometown/road buddy Zig to Jack’s Zag, filling the space of the minimalist stage to great effect.

Nicole Odell is the innocently lustful Maggie, singing her songs of desire and aching for her young man to stay home yet unwilling to hold him back from his destiny in the big city.

And Jack, as played by Paul Rodrigues, is an exuberant and moody combination of Jim Thorpe and Gene Kelly with a perfect dash of Canuck on the side.

Together, these three actors, accompanied by Doctor Sax on sax (Rich Lesnik—rhymes with Beatnik) deliver a powerhouse performance that will have you hopeful and laughing, mournful and wary as the wash of Big Sur beckons. I was hooked the instant I heard the word “ululating” emanating from the stage. These folks did it right.

If you’re in the Bay Area and you dig Kerouac, you must see this play. Only two weekends left.

Buy tickets here »