Wednesday, April 27, 2011

New York, April 2011 - Day Twelve, "Carson McCullers Talks About Love"

“Carson McCullers Talks About Love”
I went to this show not because I’m a huge Carson McCullers fan (I’ve never even seen the movie version of “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” let alone read it or any of her other books), but because of the two composers, singers/songwriters Duncan Sheik and Suzanne Vega. I owned (and enjoyed) Vega’s crossover album, “Solitude Standing,” and loved both Sheik’s one radio hit (“Barely Breathing”) and his score for “Spring Awakening.” And since Vega was singing the title role of McCullers, I went to one of the first previews.

I think they may have something here, even though the book needs a fair bit of work (it’s too soft and mundane right now) and Vega is a much better actress when she is singing.

First, the material is incredibly rich. McCullers is a tragic figure, successful and famous before she was 25, her left side paralyzed by a series of strokes before she was 31, and was dead at 50. In those few years, though, she lived and loved and wrote and hung out with the cream of the New York intellectual scene: Truman Capote, Paul Bowles, Tennessee Williams, W. H. Auden, et al.

Second – and more important to the show’s future – the songs are lovely. Some haunting, some sprightly, all delivered tenderly by Vega. I’d buy the album today if they had one. When she stands, near the end of the show, her left arm pinned to her side (the effects of the stroke) and intones “Do you know how love should be begun? A tree. A rock. A cloud,” it simultaneously broke my heart and filled me with hope.

Part of that hope is that the producers find a way to reach an audience larger than the 95 who can fit inside the village’s Rattlestick Theater.

(Odd synchronicity: just as I finished this review, “Solitude Standing” began to play in iTunes, after the instrumental music I had chosen to write to – the soundtrack from “The Social Network” - had finished.)

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