“Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woodie Guthrie at Seattle Rep

Here four remarkably talented actor/musicians revive the music and era of Woody Guthrie in a charming, funny, yet sad but historically accurate portrait of mid-twentieth century America. Guthrie was the balladeer whose songs have never gone out of style. He’s the hard-times philosopher who captured the pathos, idealism, despair, and daily life of so many of his countrymen from the Depression era through the New Deal.

He was everyman, everyman who struggled to find work, who found it difficult to feed his family, who escaped the Dust Bowl, who loved his country, and was shaped by the misfortune of his times. He might well have given up all hope. Instead he composed songs and signed on to any New Deal project that would take him, including the Bonneville Dam project that offered promise and hope to those dispossessed and nearly destroyed by the depression.

The enormously talented David M. Lutken devised this musical homage with his fellow cast members and their director, Nick Corley. The four consummate musicians are Lutken, Darcie Deaville, David Finch, and Helen Jean Russell. They appear to have mastered every stringed instrument used in our society as well as spoons and jews harp.

With energetic movements they flit across the stage, as they sing and play and manage to incorporate some highly effective physical humor. It’s Woody’s tale of a very sad time in American history and the pluck and perseverance required to survive.

Scenic designer Luke Hegel-Cantarella fills the back of the stage with a photomontage of western lands, wide open skies and distressed buildings that capture the era. Lighting designed by Robert J. Aguilar, enriches the scene. Those wide-open skies change from rosy pink to rich maroon with a full array of blues to complement them.

We, the audience, can’t help but be affected by the history that’s laid before us, but Woody’s music performed with such vigor and élan by this cast make this an uplifting evening at the theatre. It’s also a timely reminder that ours is a country that believes in justice for all. After all as Woody sang, “This land is your land; this land is my land. . . . This land was made for you and me.” In this difficult age, here’s a good reminder that times can be much harder and that we can prevail.

Through January 29 at Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St., Seattle, (206-443-2222 or Seattlerep.org.

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