Craig Lucas Sheds Light on New Guettel Musical Piazza

Craig Lucas Sheds Light on New Guettel Musical Piazza "Adam [Guettel] asked me to listen to the music, he was thinking of abandoning it," Craig Lucas, bookwriter and director of The Light in the Piazza, told Playbill On-Line about the upcoming world premiere musical by Adam Guettel.

Craig Lucas.
Craig Lucas. (Photo by Aubrey Reuben)

After hearing the score, Lucas told his collaborator Guettel "it would be tragic to abandon it." The musical from the composer of Floyd Collins had been through a number of incarnations with Alfred Uhry, who was once connected to the project. The busy Lucas at first offered help to his younger counterpart. "But we really got along and I'd been wanting to work with him for a long time. I actually met him 22 years ago when he was a kid — and I was a kid... sort of."

The Light in the Piazza is scheduled for a May 31-July 19 run at Seattle's Intiman Theatre followed by a Jan. 10-Feb. 15, 2004 run at Chicago's Goodman Theatre.

The story of The Light in the Piazza is based on the Elizabeth Spencer novella of the same name. "An American mother and her daughter are travelling in Italy, primarily Florence, in post-war, sort of McCarthy Era years and the daughter falls in love with a Florentine boy," Lucas explained. "The affair, as it unfolds, triggers a lot of deep feelings from everybody connected to the two of them. The mother tries to stop [the affair] and it seems at first as if she is just not able to let go of her daughter; then something gets revealed."

Lucas warned that those familiar with the original source material may have the musical's first act revelation spoiled for them. "The story [of the novella] is structured very differently than our show. You sort of see the girl through the boy's eyes in our show and she's utterly charming and winning and straightforward and guileless and she's also incapable of responding as an adult up to a certain point."

Although bookworms may be at a disadvantage, Lucas assured, "The real story is about what their love does to everybody else." The other characters include the boy's philandering brother, his sister-in-law, his two parents and the girl's parents. "All of these four couples kind of explode at various places along the continuum of the love affair from that first falling, that kind of tense, febrile (delusional) phase of love, through to much more mature love." The fairy tale musical marks a departure from the recent dark work associated with the playwright. "I have been writing these punishing, angry, tragic plays. I just could not write enough mean, cruel, dark, upsetting things. So when Adam brought me this [love story], I kind of thought 'I don't know, maybe I'm the wrong guy.' But it's been a tremendous joy."

About plans for New York, Lucas divulged "We haven't made any decisions. Part of why we wanted to go to Seattle was to look at it and say 'It's possible that I'm not the right director for it.' 'It's possible that we've made some real miscalculation and we want to rethink it.' So we want to use that time. We have a relatively good preview period and then the whole summer to work to the show. Then we have this period between then and the Goodman to do whatever else we like."

Lucas is currently scheduled to direct the work for Goodman as well, a relatively new line of work the scribe. "I have been directing for about three years now and enjoying it. Adam really wanted to have our production of the show to start with and we're just going to see."

Tickets to The Light in the Piazza at the Intiman, 201 Mercer Street in Seattle, WA can be purchased by calling (206) 269-1900 or visit http://www.intiman.org.