The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings


SEARCH CurtainUp



NEWS (Etcetera)



Los Angeles






Free Updates
NYC Weather
A CurtainUp Review
Carson McCullers (Historically Inaccurate)
I think you're a real life Bette Davis. . . Bette never makes you feel comfortable. She makes me want to follow her over the cliff.
--- Reeve McCuller during the wedding night that sets their marrriage on its ever-troubled path.

Jenny Bacon
Jenny Bacon as Carson McCullers (Photo: Joan Marcus)
Carson McCullers is one of the legendary names in the pantheon of twentieth century Southern literature. Frankie, the lonely adolescent of her best selling novel-play-movie, The Member of the Wedding, made Julie Harris a star. The grotesques who peopled novels like The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter continue to grip readers. Her own turbulent life has contributed to the McCullers legend. It was a life rife with triumphs and friendships, darkened by a disastrous marriage, unrequited Lesbian passions and ill health that ended in death at age fifty.

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.

Carson McCullers (Historically Inaccurate)
Written by Sarah Schulman
Directed by Marion McClinton
Cast: Jenny Bacon as McCullers, with as Michi Barall, Rosalyn Coleman, Barbara eda-Young, LeLand Gantt, Tim Hopper, Rick Stear and Anne Torsiglieri.
Set Design: Neil Patel
Costume Design: Toni-Leslie James
Lighting Design: Donald Holder
Sound Design: Janet Kalas
Running Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes, including one intermission
Produced by Women's Project and Productions with Playwrights Horizon
Women's Project Theatre, 424 W. 55th St (west of Ninth Ave) 239-6200
br>. 1/10/02-2/03/02; opening 1/20/02
Tuesday - Saturday @ 8PM, Saturday & Sunday @ 3PM-- $25
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on January 21 press preview

Order Tickets
Metaphors Dictionary Cover
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.

The Broadway Theatre Archive

©Copyright 2002, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from