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Paulanne Simmons

" Search: Paul Clayton" Makes the Case for a Man Nobody Knows


Search: Paul Clayton
Directed by Randal Myler
The Triad Theatre
158 West 72 Street
Opened May 7, 2015
Tickets: $35-$50 www.tigertheatricals.com or 800-838-3006
Closes May 21, 2015
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons May 7, 2015

Peter Oyloe(as Paul Clayton).

When most people think of Bob Dylan's early influences names like Woody Guthrie and Joan Baez come to mind. But Paul Clayton? Few people, unless they are really connoisseurs of folk music, even know who he is. Turns out, Clayton "was an American folksinger and folklorist who was prominent in the folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960s." At least that's what Wikipedia has to say.

If you scroll further down, you’ll find this: "In an interview published as part of a history of Greenwich Village folk club, Gerde's Folk City, folksinger Barry Kornfeld described how Clayton's 'Who's Gonna Buy You Ribbons (When I'm Gone)' morphed into Dylan's ‘Don't Think Twice.'"

The romantic triangle: Jared Weiss( Bob), Ereni Sevasti (suze) and Peter Oyloe(Paul).

And a bit later: "Dylan's and Clayton's publishing companies sued each other over the alleged plagiarism. As it turned out, Clayton's song was derived from an earlier folksong entitled "Who's Gonna Buy You Chickens When I'm Gone?" which was in the public domain. The lawsuits, which were settled out of court, had no effect on the friendship between the two songwriters."

This may not sound like a big deal, but Larry Mollin has turned it into a play with music that's making its New York premiere at The Triad Theatre, under the direction of Randal Myer. Mollin says it's a Wiki Folk Musical and calls it "Search: Paul Clayton," with the subtitle: "The Man Who Loved Bob Dylan." All of this, however, is a bit odd when you consider how little Wikipedia actually has to say about this bit of history.

Nevertheless, the play tells an interesting story that includes Clayton's upbringing in a musical if not terribly peaceful household; the 60s music scene in Greenwich Village; and Dylan's perfidy to his girlfriend, Suze Rotolo, Clayton and just about anyone whom the ambitious singer no longer needed. And let's not forget the titilating assumption that Clayton, who was gay, was not so secretly in love with Dylan.

Paul Clayton and Bob Dylan close as it gets.

Jared Weiss, who plays Dylan, is a little too cute for the hook-nosed folksinger; and Peter Oyloe is far too bland to get our sympathy. But the music goes a long way to make up for the drama's deficiencies. All of the performers are also musicians, so there are a lot of instruments onstage making a lot of music.

Although there aren’t too many Dylan favorites here, there are fine renditions of "Cocaine Blues,""Baby Let Me Follow You Down,""Across the Blue Mountains" and "Talkin' Bob Dylan Country Blues." You can't argue with good music.

At one point at the beginning of the play, Clayton says, "Mom, Dad, let's just sing." It's a line that many people may repeat over and over in their heads as the show goes on.




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