Pin It
favorite

Ribbon of Highway 

Cinnabar's 'American Song' presents Woody Guthrie's wandering heart and soul


01.05.11



I did keep my eyes on you—and I kept my ears open when you came close to me." So said Woody Guthrie, the great American folksinger and songwriter who died of Huntington's disease at the age of 55. Unable to play a guitar for the last 15 years of his life, Guthrie still left behind a legacy of nearly a thousand folk songs, including "This Land Is Your Land," arguably the greatest American folk song ever written.

Guthrie, a prolific writer of prose as well as songs, wrote down many of his thoughts on music, songwriting and his own place in history, making clear his belief that every song he ever wrote was borrowed, in part, from the people he met throughout his life. The stories in his songs are the story of America, and the hard-hit lives he described so powerfully were the lives of everyday people, struggling to make their way in a difficult world.

Peter Glazer's inventive, supremely satisfying musical tribute Woody Guthrie's American Song, now running at the Cinnabar Theater, does not attempt to tell the story of Guthrie's life. Instead, borrowing bits and pieces of Guthrie's autobiographical writing and including more than two dozen of Guthrie's songs ("Hard Travelin'," "Dust Storm Disaster," "Bound for Glory," "Ludlow Massacre"), Glazer beautifully illustrates the notion that America itself was the co-author of Woody Guthrie's musical canon. Directed by Beth Craven with a first-rate cast of local all-stars and a first rate onstage band (Chris Rovetti, Tim Sarter, Dave Zirbel), the thread of Guthrie's narration is passed from actor to actor, further emphasizing the idea that Woody Guthrie and the American people are one and the same.

The play, originally developed 25 years ago in New Hampshire, was revived last year with Glazer directing at the Marin Theatre Company. It was an elegant and pristine production, with its fair share of chills-up-the-back moments during some of Guthrie's more powerful songs. The Cinnabar production, presented by Craven's new Musical Heritage Theater company, works better, I think. Aided by Cinnabar's cozily intimate environment, and also by Mark Robinson's impressive, all-purpose barn/boxcar/meeting-house set, this production succeeds by sticking its big open heart—Guthrie's heart and soul—right out front and center.

The superb cast—Shannon Rider, Jim Peterson, Mary Gannon Graham and Tyler Costin—is consistently mesmerizing, morphing in and out of various characters as the play traces Guthrie's travels through the Oklahoma dustbowl, Depression-era tent cities and work camps, pre-war New York City and more.

"Just let me be known," Guthrie is quoted late in the show, "as the man who told you somethin' you already knew."

In Woody Guthrie's American Song, what emerges is a vision of Guthrie as not just a fine songwriter (and some of these lyrics, presented this way, might just grab you and shake your socks off, they are so good), but mainly as an artist who saw his job as that of a mirror, absorbing and reflecting back the rough-hewn beauty of a country and of a people that he loved right down to his bones.

'Woody Guthrie's American Song' runs Friday&–Sunday through Jan. 23 at the Cinnabar Theater, 3333 Petaluma Blvd., Petaluma. Friday and Saturday at 8pm; Sunday matinee at 2pm. $20&–$35. 707.763.8920.





  • Cinnabar's 'American Song' presents Woody Guthrie's wandering heart and soul

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Latest in Theater

  • Old Made New

    Innovative 'Twelfth Night' keeps an old play fresh
    • Jul 29, 2015
  • Full Circle

    The past is the present in new play at 6th Street
    • Jul 22, 2015
  • One Crazy Play

    MCS stages nutty Shakespeare work
    • Jul 8, 2015
  • More »

More by David Templeton

  • Old Made New

    Innovative 'Twelfth Night' keeps an old play fresh
    • Jul 29, 2015
  • Full Circle

    The past is the present in new play at 6th Street
    • Jul 22, 2015
  • More »

Find It

Submit an event

Boho Beat

Jul. 29 & 30: Buggin' Out in Petaluma & Fairfax

Jul. 31: Speedy Squash in Sonoma

Aug. 1: Whole Body in Napa

More »

Facebook Activity

Most Commented

  • Fat Tire Temple

    Curating mountain biking's roots in the place where it all began
    • Jul 1, 2015
  • His Last Case

    Sherlock faces his final foe in 'Mr. Holmes'
    • Jul 29, 2015
  • More »

Twitter

Read more @nbaybohemian

Copyright © 2015 Metro Newspapers. All rights reserved.

Website powered by Foundation