“Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie” is top-notch

Special to the Gazette

If you, like me, enjoy bluegrass and country music, then you are bound to be put in hillbilly heaven if you attend. The Center Repertory Company’s new show, “Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie”, is once again a terrific, moving, and inspirational evening of some of the most important folk and bluegrass music written by an American songwriter, Woodrow Wilson Guthrie.

Devised by and starring David M. Lutkin, this is a bona fide musical portrait of one of America’s greatest traveling troubadours and focuses on the story, life, and music created by Guthrie. In this comfortable venue, the Margaret Lesher theater, you will have an opportunity to kick back and spend a couple of hours with a little heartfelt insight into the heart and soul of a man whose musical creations changed the world for many of us as you hear 40+ wonderful songs he wrote.

Woody Guthrie lived and created his music up to and through the depression in the 1930’s. His lyrics tell the heartbreaking stories of the hard-working men and women from every walk of life that were destroyed by the depression and the dustbowl, which covered over 100 million acres of farmland.

His songs were created by the conditions he witnessed on a daily basis as he traveled all across the country. He has become revered by most Americans through his support of the underprivileged, his heartbreaking stories of the poor, his political activism, his hundreds of folk, family and depression songs that he blended with poignant ballads.

He has been long considered as a figurehead in the folk music movement, providing inspiration to a generation of new artists including such artists as Ramblin Jack Elliott, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Johnny Cash, and Bruce Springsteen.

One of his most significant and popular songs still recorded today, literally by hundreds of artists is “This Land is Your Land”. Some of the wonderful songs you will hear in this production are also some of my favorites, including, “This Train”, “Oklahoma Hills”, “Mule Skinner Blues”, “Do Re Mi”, “Union Maid”, “Deportee” and “So Long, It’s Been Good to Know You”.

There are four fantastic entertainers in this musical with the ability to play several instruments each: Darcie Deaville, David Finch, Megan Loomis and David M. Lutkin, who is the musical director.

The set is adorned with a few images of Woody Guthrie and simple movable box-like props that make this set seem comfortable and country.

The voices and the music of these extremely professional and talented performers kept the audience tapping their toes, clapping her hands and sometimes, joining in and singing some of the songs. It was such a terrific evening and we enjoyed the music so much, that after the show was over, Karen and I went down to the stage door to wait for the entertainers to exit the theater, so that I could plead to purchase one of their wonderful albums, which I did!

This delightful show will continue Wednesdays at 7:30 PM, Thursdays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, with 2:30 PM matinee performances on Saturdays and Sundays now through June 23.

The cast has offered a special invitation to the general public to join in a free hootenanny, that will be held following each Sunday matinee at 4:45 PM wherein anyone can bring an instrument, sing-along or just clap to the rhythms in the music, in the informal, un-amplified jam session.

The production will continue in the Margaret Lesher Theater located in the Lesher Center for the Arts at 1601 Civic Drive in Walnut Creek. Tickets range between $36 to $79 each and can be secured by purchasing them at the Lesher Center for the Arts box office, at the Downtown Walnut Creek Library or by calling (925) 943 SHOW (7469) and please visit www.lesherartscenter.org for more events tied to this show!

California Shakespeare Theater has just opened its 45th season with an uproariously joyous and outrageously comedic production of William Shakespeare’s examination of gender inequity in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in the Bruns Amphitheater in the Orinda Hills. This play examines Elizabethan societal values, which were often quite perverse in the miss-treatment of women, generally declaring that as human beings, they were worth little more than a piece of property.

Young Hermia (Jenny Nelson) is dragged into court before the King of Fairies, by her father, Egeus (Anthony Fusco), where she is informed that she must marry the husband of her father’s choice, Demetrius (Kevin Kemp). Should she refuse his wish, she may have to die, as is prescribed by “The Ancient Law”.

Her desired mate, Lysander (Dean Linnard), is precluded from marrying her, in a decree issued by the King of all Fairies (Lord Oberon). At the same time, Demetrius emphatically rejects another woman, Helena (Annie Worden), who declares openly and forcefully, in the same court, that she is madly in love with Him.

The young, distraught couple secretly launch a plan to sneak away after dark and meet in the woods, where they intend to escape the court’s edict.

However, the overpowering jealousy and passion in Helena’s heart, causes her to reveal their plan to Demetrius, to in-turn, foil his intended marriage to Hermia. Almost at the same time, an ongoing argument between Lord Oberon (Rami Margron) and his wife, Titania (Jerrie Johnson), causes a monumental misapplication of magic and turns the multiple love affairs completely and comically, upside down.

The overpowering demonstrations of romantic passion and the sensual sexual innuendoes are delivered beyond any level of performance I have seen this play before, and the comedy so created, is richly rewarding to us all. Director, Tyne Rafaeli, has succeeded in delivering an exciting and uniquely rewarding production through her clever and insightful vision, along with a great deal of commitment and hard work by the Cal Shakes development and backstage teams.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream continues Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7:30 pm, with Friday and Saturday performances at 8pm. A Saturday matinee on June 8th occurs at 2 PM. Sunday matinees will occur at 4 PM, and the grounds open two hours prior to the show time for picnicking. The production closes on June 16th.

The café and a full bar are available on site. The theater is located in the Bruns Amphitheater at 100 California Shakespeare Way, Orinda, CA 94563. (Just off Highway 24 at the California Shakespeare theater way/Wilder Road exit, 1 mile east of the Caldecott tunnel.)

Tickets range in price between $35 and $102, depending on the night of the performance and seating, and are available through the California Shakespeare theater box office, at 701 Hines Ave., Berkeley, CA, by telephone at 510-548-9666 or available online at www.calshakes.org.

I strongly urge you to attend this production, as it is superb theater on every crazy level!

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