A Midwest Tale to the Rhythms of Bob Dylan


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Kimber Sprawl and Sydney James Harcourt in “Girl from the North Country.”

Matt Markowski, Contributing Writer

The enchanting Midwest is the stage and the musical stylings of Bob Dylan ring throughout this idyllic tale. Whether it be on the radio or a parent reminiscing about their past, Dylan’s music swoons with a poetic and lyrical beauty that is infectious to the soul. But it is an absolute necessity to hear it as it’s currently being rendered at the Public Theater’s breathtaking “Girl from the North Country.”

Having premiered in London with two sold-out runs, “Girl from the North Country” tells the story of the Laine family in Duluth, Minnesota. Nick Laine is the proprietor of a rundown guesthouse and lives with his wife Elizabeth, who is suffering from an extreme form of dementia. They reside in the guesthouse with their two children and other remaining visitors.

The allure of “Girl from the North Country” is the simple story written by Conor McPherson, who is also the director of the play. Very little happens, but the emotions are constantly high. Each scene sizzles with raw feelings combining the lives of all that are staying in the guesthouse. In its pure essence, it is a story about community, which needed now more than ever.

Coupled with this emotional story is the enchanting music of Bob Dylan. It is hard to categorize this show as a musical when in truth it is a play with music. The music brings the sentiments of the plot and characters to life, rather than furthering the narrative. It functions as a drug that seeps through the veins of the story, elevating the material to a level of surrealism.

Though “Girl from the North Country” is mostly an ensemble piece, there are a few absolutely stunning performances. Colton Ryan and Kimber Sprawl break the audience’s heart as siblings stuck in a family they wish to break from. Sydney James Harcourt makes the audience swoon each time he sings a single lyric.

But the true scene stealer is Mare Winningham as the deteriorating Elizabeth. She easily and convincingly transitions from a woman sitting and staring into the distance to childlike outbursts. Winningham is subtle, yet completely heartbreaking in the role. Her rendition of “Like a Rolling Stone” will leave the crowd with chills down their spines.

McPherson created a stunning evening of theater in “Girl from the North Country.” The writing, music, production aesthetics and actors will completely consume and enthrall any audience member. It is a story of community and the love found within it. It is not an evening for those looking for a light-hearted comedy, but an evening for those looking to lose themselves and to cry for people one barely knows. The experience is a time to mourn the self-projection of emotion that is depicted on the stage.

“Girl from the North Country” runs at the Public Theater through Dec. 23. Tickets can be purchased here.

Email Matt Markowski at [email protected].