Woody Sez – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Woody Guthrie was like a Will Rogers with a guitar and a cowboy hat filled with pithy comments. He wrote songs of protest, of commentary and criticism, 3000 in all, about the country he loved and wanted to proclaim and protect. In addition, he penned two novels, wrote poems, plays and prose, and painted the scenes he saw on his travels. To learn about his life, the peaks and valleys, head on over to the Ivoryton Playhouse until Sunday, November 10 to say Howdy and make his acquaintance in “Woody Sez,” a a musical portrait devised by David M. Lutken, with Nick Corley, Darcie Deaville, Helen Jean Russell and Andy Tierstein. David Lutken will star as Woody until November 1 when Andy Christopher continues as Woody until November 10.

Being named after a President might be daunting for a baby boy, but if your moniker is Woodrow Wilson Guthrie you are able to strive for perfection and then some. Your life has to be meaningful and special, even if it means walking from one end of the country to the other and making a joyful noise unto the Lord. Woody Guthrie wrote folk tunes about his growing up years in Oklahoma’s Dust Bowl, political, children’s, songs of wanderlust and traveling, songs of peace and against war, social justice and even songs with a Jewish flavor. None of his verses is more well known than “This Land Is Your Land,” that he penned in 1940, considered one of folk music’s most famous tunes. Even that was a protest against the sentiment he heard in Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.”

Lutken stars as the prosaic philosophizing guitar playing guy who was compelled to ramble across the country and write about all he saw and all the people he met along the way. Nick Corley sets his hand to directing this impassioned yet humble tale, of a man and the music he had to make. Guthrie was a social commentator, a radical with a penchant for truth, who believed “all you can write is all you can see.” He has been described as “a three chord picker with a poet’s brain” and his tale has been brought from coast to coast by Lutken with his faithful comrades Darcie Deaville, Maggie Hollinbeck and David Finch on fiddle, bass, guitar, harmonica and more.

Think of Woody Guthrie as an amalgam of Will Rogers and Pete Seeger, a man filled with words and sentiments which he put into poems, plays, letters, a newspaper column called “Woody Sez,” song lyrics as well as novels and artwork. He suffered many tragic losses in his life as well as great happiness. They translated into his writings. As Woody says himself, “There’s a feeling in music and it carries you back down the road you have traveled and makes you travel it again. Sometimes when I hear music I think back over my days – and a feeling that is fifty-fifty joy and pain swells like clouds taking all kinds of shapes in my mind.”

Some highlights of the more than thirty six tunes include “This Train Is Bound for Glory,” “Jack Hammer Blues,” “Sinking of the Reuben James,” “The Ballad of Tom Joad,” “Riding In My Car,” and, of course, “This Land Is Your Land.” In his music he fought famine, floods, fires and Fascism as he traveled the “ribbon of the highway” as he came in with the dust and went out with the wind.

For tickets ($55, seniors $50, students $25, children $20), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 or online at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org. Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. On Sundays, a hootenanny follows across the street at the Ivoryton Tavern so bring your fiddle along. It’s time to get your holiday spirit in gear and the Ivoryton Playhouse is ready to help. ”A Christmas Carol in Concert “will be held Sunday and Monday, December 8 and 9 and “An Actor’s Carol” will play December 13 to 22.

Come meet this home spun, down home country boy, a pure ramblin’ man, named after our 28th president, with his guitar and his friends in this special and moving tribute to the Oklahoma Troubadour. They are all bound for glory.