10/20/21: Girl From The North Country
What: A transfer from The Public Theater, a new jukebox musical using the songs of Bob Dylan, about an assortment of personalities in and around a boarding house in Duluth, Minnesota in 1934.
And? I have so many questions. And, since Conor McPherson both wrote and directed this show, I'm directing them all to him:
- What did I just watch?
- Why don't you establish the language and structure of the show and how the songs work (or don't) in conversation with the dialog, so we know how to listen? I was desperately looking for some character depth or emotional dilation in the lyrics and was lost so quickly.
- Would I have minded this less if I knew Bob Dylan's music better?
- Why does each scene feel like an excerpt from a different play? Why do you introduce characters, conflicts, or the idea of an arc, only to never return to them during the next 2.5 hours?
- Why are you so afraid of writing scenes that reveal character, that you have a periodic narrator to explain things instead?
- Why are the majority of songs so dramatically inert and disconnected from their adjacent scenes?
- Why is there so little coherence among the various elements telling this story?
- Why are scene transitions such a bland inactive character drop that distract from the scene that hasn't yet ended? (except Jay O. Sanders, who valiantly holds character even to carry a chair across the space as he exits)
- Speaking of Jay O. Sanders, I understand you are making some kind of statement by having Nick, the center of the story, have no music, but since you never explained to me how music functions in this play (and really, it's a play with music, right? not a musical? I mean?), I don't know what that statement is intended to be. John Doyle's revival of Company this is not.
- Also what is up with those scrims? Why do we have a view of an empty road behind an interior scene?
- What is the point of the radio mics? The performers address most of the songs straight out to the audience regardless of the presence of one, like this is a concert and not a story.
- Why do you put the band onstage but not light them? Also why do you have a band onstage but ask your actors to handle the drum set (and then not light them)?
- Speaking of not lighting your performers, why don't you light the face of the character with the final emotional beat? Hasn't she earned that?
- Why do you include a song with the slur for the Romani people? Is that vital to the story you're telling? Is it? I know that we have a number of classic musicals which use that word (including "Anything Goes" and the Sondheim-Styne show whose title is the word itself, and that's something we need to grapple with), but this is a new show. You get to make choices. You chose this.
- Why are you contributing to the harmful narrative that people with mental illness are a danger to those around them?
- Why do you ask me to have empathy for a character that, one scene earlier, called a grown Black man "boy"?
- Why does the ghost of an implied murderer get the one song of lightness and joy?
- This show got good reviews in London. What got lost in translation?
- Who is the Girl from the North Country?
Jay O. Sanders and Todd Almond and Mare Winningham are great. Most of the cast is good. The vocal arrangements and orchestrations are beautiful. But what was that, Conor McPherson?
|The cast of Girl From The North Country. Photo by Matthew Murphy.|