Heartbreak, lust, rage, and reconciliation. The songs by two of Canada’s best-loved singer-songwriters, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen, have it all. Signature Theatre’s intimate cabaret production of their work, both sides now, will feature music that has soundtracked generations of collective yearning and despair, songs such as “Cactus Tree,” “Hallelujah,”
“Suzanne,” and “Both Sides Now.” The pair were briefly a couple after meeting at the 1967 Newport Folk Festival. While we might wish they’d gone on to duke it out in dueling kiss-off songs, neither had Taylor Swift’s propensity for being explicit about the leading players in their songs. Even so, in Malka Marom’s book Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words, Mitchell acknowledges that she used the pair’s breakup as source material for “Rainy Night House.” While Cohen didn’t specifically name-check his affair with Mitchell in his songs, there are no shortage of hypothesizers who search for references to her in his work, as Tom Taylor does when he suggests Cohen’s poem “Two Went to Sleep” was his response to “Rainy Night House.” In an interview from The Times of London, journalist Mark Ellis writes of Cohen, “I asked him about his love affair with the enviably prolific Joni Mitchell in the late ’60s and he gave a softly competitive laugh: ‘How would you like living with Beethoven?’” To prepare for Signature’s cabaret show starring Danielle Wertz and Robbie Schaefer, review Allan Showalter’s breakdown of their brief affair and long-term friendship, and come up with theories of your own about why they didn’t have a chance. both sides now: joni mitchell and leonard cohen runs from Nov. 1 to 13 at Signature Theatre. sigtheatre.org. $38.
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