Using 20 songs that Bob Dylan composed over half a century, playwright Conor McPherson has fashioned a slow, sad, elliptical and occasionally exquisite theater piece set in a run-down boarding house in Duluth, Minnesota, Dylan’s hometown, in 1934, seven years before Dylan was born.
The stories in “Girl From The North Country,” are not about Dylan. They focus on the desperate family that runs the boarding house, and the many struggling people around them. The show presents a harsh and familiar Dust Bowl Americana. But it does so in a way that recalls how Dylan tapped into Woody Guthrie – in homage and imitation, yes, but rearranged into something that can feel new and compelling. The odd pairing of McPherson’s scenes of hard luck lives with Dylan’s songs of yearning, delivered by a splendid 17-member cast, work better than you might expect, but not as well as you might have hoped.