Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Left Turn in Harvard Square - "Woody Sez" at the A.R.T.

The American Repertory Theater is offering "Woody Sez" as its final Mainstage production of the 2011-2012 season.  The timing is set to coincide closely with the 100th anniversary of Wood Guthrie's birth in Okemah, Oklahoma, only five years after that state had entered the Union.   The evening is a loose leaf notebook of Woody's songs, stitched together very loosely with commentary and some of Woody's pronouncements.  The evening felt much more like a hootenanny than a play, so I could not help but wonder why it was not set at Club Passim, rather than in the A.R.T.'s Loeb Theater.  I enjoyed the music, much of which I grew up listening to, but I never felt emotionally engaged by the story of Woody's life and career.

To be fair, most of the audience seemed to love every minute of the evening's entertainment.  I cannot help but feel that politics accounted for their enthusiasm as much as appreciation for the music.  Every time there was a specific or oblique reference to Woody's left-leaning politics, the audience erupted in spontaneous cheers and applause.  "I think we should make a left turn a little ways ahead - and so should the country!"  Applause, applause, applause.

The music and sketchy characterization of Woody was devised and ably performed  by David M. Lutken, backed up by Darcie Deaville, Helen Jean Russell and Andy Teirstein, playing a wide assortment of folk instruments.   The quartet dressed simply in clothing that evoked the epoch of The Great Depression, when Woody got his start as a musician and social commentator.

"Woody Guthrie is a musical hero of legendary proportion who transformed folk music into a vehicle for social protest and evoked the restless spirit of the Dust Bowl generation.  Woody Sez brings the giant to life in a joyous, toe-tapping, and heartfelt theatrical portrait that uses Woody's words and songs to transport the audience through his fascinating, beautiful, and sometimes tragic life. Featuring many classic Woody tunes including "This Land is Your Land" and "Bound for Glory," Woody Sez captures the heart and spirit of Woody Guthrie and the stories of America.

In Woody's spirit, the A.R.T. is hosting post-show hootenannies after select performances led by cast members and other local artists. You are invited to bring your instruments and join in a free-form musical celebration."

If you are a fan of folk music in general, and Woody Guthrie's songs in particular, you will enjoy the show.


Click here for more information.

Friday, May 11 after the 7:30 performance - Brendan Hogan
Wednesday, May 16 after the 7:30 perforamnce - Alastair Moock
Saturday, May 19 after the 7:30 performance -Miwa Gemini
Wednesday, May 23 after the 7:30 performance - Marylou Ferrante
Also join the cast after each Thursday night performance.

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