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LETTERS TO EDITOR
Carson McCullers (Historically Inaccurate)
With interest in McCuller stronger than ever, Sarah Schulman's Carson McCullers (Historically Inaccurate) being given a world premiere by Women's Project and Productions and Playwrights Horizon has all the earmarks of a timely and entertaining play with a fascinating central character. Jenny Bacon, an always interesting actress, seems ideally cast to star as the complex title character. But as McCullers' mother did little to reign in her emotional excesses in the interest of nurturing what she believed to be her daughter's genius, director Marion McClinton has followed suit and allowed Ms. Bacon to play Carson with way too much histrionic fervor. On the same note, Ms. Schulman misses in her effort to give us an inside glimpse into her subject's creative processes unhampered by the biographer's restraints of accuracy as to time frame and dialogue (to wit, the parenthetical title tag). Her play is stuffed with an excess of incidents and short on focus, a shapeless biodrama lacking in fully realized characters.
The closest we come to a substantive drama is during the scenes from Carson 's sexually dysfunctional marriage to Reeves McCuller (played with gentle desperation by Rick Stear). The rest -- including a fictionalized rehearsal of The Member of the Wedding with McCullers critiquing Michi Barall and brief encounters with Tennessee Williams (Tim Hopper), Gypsy Rose Lee (Anne Torsiglieri providing a strip tease that seems thrown in for no special reason), Ethel Waters (Rosalyn Coleman, acting as a spiritual counselor to the dying Carson)and Richard Wright (Leland Gantt) -- are not particularly enlightening and thus add to the sense of watching a name dropping stage biography.
The various dual roles are well handled and even amusing, as when Carson tells Tim Hopper, who plays her father and the father character in her play, "you don't look like my father. " Neil Patel has created a workable set , enhanced by Donald Holder's lighting. Starting with Rachmaninoff for the scene when young Carson is still geared up for a musical career sound designer Janet Kalas provides provides just the right musical introduction to each new scene.
McCuller's emotional and physical problems and her childhood in rural Georgia no doubt influenced the characters she created. But to show how she distilled her own experience and feelings into fiction is a dramatic challenge that has overwhelmed Ms. Schulman, Ms. Bacon and Mr. McClinton. Carson McCullers (Historically Inaccurate) packs a lot of material and talk into two hours, but the result lacks theatrical muscle. Until someone writes a full-bodied, truly revealing play about her, the best way to know Carson McCullers is to read Carson McCullers.
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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