Girl from the North Country

Girl from the North Country suffers from a surfeit of quirky, irascible, and damaged characters, and nearly as many subplots. In its favor, it’s good to hear songs (many we know, some we don’t) by Bob Dylan (if only, sometimes, as snippets) in new styles (hard rock, blues, gospel-ish) and arrangements. The reworking of “I Want You” as a duet is very fine. But in most cases, the songs are disconnected from the stories: rarely does someone, following the Rodgers and Hammerstein paradigm, sing to explain themselves, or to advance the plot, or because they just can’t help it. The medley opening the second act is particularly puzzling: why are we hearing these particular songs?

That said, Jill Van Velzer does well with “Sweetheart Like You,” giving us a good belt; Jay Russell as the unctuous Mr. Perry and Jeremy Webb as “Bible salesman” Reverend Marlowe are chewy antagonists. There are a couple of rousing 11:00 numbers, “Duquesne Whistle” and a few stanzas of “Hurricane” with an interpolation from “All Along the Watchtower.” And we appreciate that the show doesn’t take applause breaks; but by the same token, the pace of dialog in most of the book scenes is unnecessarily breakneck. Give us a chance to care about these people.

  • Girl from the North Country, written and directed by Conor McPherson, music and lyrics by Bob Dylan, orchestrated and arranged by Simon Hale, Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater, Washington