A unique theatrical take on the life of American writer Carson McCullers gets its world premiere beginning Jan. 10 when Sarah Schulman's Carson McCullers (Historically Inaccurate) begins previews in Manhattan in a co-staging by Women's Project & Productions and Playwrights Horizons.
Jenny Bacon plays the short-lived Southern novelist Carson, with Michi Barall, Rosalyn Coleman, Barbara eda-Young, Leland Gantt, Tim Hopper, Rick Stear and Anne Torsiglieri as those who punctuated her life, through Feb. 3 at The Women's Project Theatre. Opening is Jan. 20.
Marion McClinton (Jitney, King Hedley II) directs the "investigation" of the life of McCullers, known for her novels "Ballad of the Sad Cafe" and "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter." Schulman is a novelist, too, having penned "Rat Bohemia," "Empathy," "People in Trouble," and downtown theatrical works at such venues as La Mama, PS 122 and The Performing Garage.
Carson McCullers is said to tell McCullers' life story as refracted through her fiction, and vice versa. The new play is billed as "an epic investigation into one woman's fascinating, tumultuous life." It "poses the question: Can a life be created, an identity forged, through prose? Weathering a rocky marriage, pervasive small-mindedness and unrequited love, Lula Carson Smith a.k.a. Carson McCullers found success as one of the most renowned playwright-novelists of the 20th century."
Columbus, GA, native McCullers (1917-67) is remembered for novels "The Member of the Wedding" (later dramatized), "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" and "The Ballad of the Sad Café" (later dramatized by Edward Albee). Her troubled life included alcoholism, a rocky marriage (she divorced and later remarried her husband), love for women, strokes and an early death at age 50. The play includes such figures as Tennessee Williams, Ethel Waters, Richard Wright, Gypsy Rose Lee and others. The Women's Project Theatre is at 424 W. 55th Street. Bacon appeared in Classic Stage Company's Race, Lincoln Center Theatre's The Misanthrope Steppenwolf Theatre Company's Molly Sweeney and New York Theatre Workshop's Streetcar Named Desire. Hopper appeared in Off Broadway's The Dying Gaul and Broadway's Present Laughter. Barbara eda-Young won an Obie Award for Slavs! at New York Theatre Workshop. Coleman appeared in Breath, Boom and Seven Guitars in New York. Michi Barall appeared in Golden Child and Stop Kiss. Gantt's credits include Police Boys and Let Me Live. Stear appeared in Twelfth Night at Lincoln Center, A Madhouse in Goa at Second Stage. Torsiglieri is a veteran of Les Misérables and Parade.
Tickets are $35, with student rush tickets available. For information call (212) 239-6200 or visit the Women's Project Theatre box office.
— By Kenneth Jones