Brent Carver, the Tony Award-winning Canadian actor who starred as Molina in Kiss of the Spider Woman, will play a middle-aged Marcel in the world premiere of Richard Nelson and Ricky Ian Gordon's Proust-inspired My Life With Albertine, beginning Feb. 18, 2003, at Playwrights Horizons.
The musical, drawing on the Albertine sections of Proust's "Remembrance of Things Past," will be the debut production at the new Playwrights Horizons facility at 416 W. 42nd Street. Nelson, who pens the book and co-writes the lyrics with composer Gordon, will direct the work.
The staging will also feature Tony nominee Emily Skinner (Side Show), Amy Spanger (Chicago, Kiss Me, Kate), "Into the Woods" favorite Chad Kimball (as young Marcel), "Sweet Smell of Success" actress Kelli O'Hara (as Albertine), Ken Barnett (The Green Bird), Nicholas Belton (Off-Broadway debut), Angela Gaylor (Off-Broadway debut), Caroline McMahon (The Wizard of Oz tour), Paul Anthony McGrane (Nelson's regional stagings of The Dead) and Paul A. Schafer (Off-Broadway debut).
Official opening is March 13. Performances continue to March 30, but if Nelson repeats the success he enjoyed with the PH-produced James Joyce's The Dead, for which he won the Best Book Tony Award, expect My Life to last longer.
The musical focuses on "the complicated and obsessive relationship between a young man of Society (Marcel, played by Kimball) and a fiery, middle-class girl (Albertine, played by Kelli O'Hara)," according to the announcement. "Narrating his tale from a private home theatre in 1920s Paris, an older Marcel (Brent Carver) looks back on his experiences with the girl who was his lover, tormentor and muse." Gordon previously told Playbill On-Line Marcel has been rewritten as a composer. In the novel, the character, who is based on Proust himself, is an aspiring writer. Composer Gordon, known for Off-Broadway's Dream True, written with Tina Landau, and his settings of poems by Langston Hughes, told Playbill On-Line he only met Nelson in November.
"Just meeting him really inspired me and excited me," Gordon told Playbill On-Line. "This particular story starts in the second book of 'Remembrance of Things Past.' It's the story of Marcel and Albertine, it's an obsessive love story. The way it's basically dealt with, there's the older narrator, the older Marcel. In a wealthy person's living room, this man decides he's going to tell the story of his life with Albertine. So a tiny little set is erected in someone's living room. His friends are going to help him act it out. That conceit alone makes everything possible. You're not trying to hide the fact that it's a theatrical retelling of something."
Gordon added: "Marcel is a composer. This is the music and story he has written. In the book, Marcel is preoccupied with a sonata, but in our piece, he's writing a sonata. The conceit makes it natural for things to be sung."
Albertine is introduced in the second volume of Proust's opus, "Within a Budding Grove," as the leader of a captivating clique of young girls Marcel encounters at a seaside resort. Over the course of the book, Marcel grows increasingly obsessed with the mercurial and mysterious Albertine until he finally takes her for his lover, against the wishes and advice of friends and family.
Once they are living together in Paris, Marcel becomes more and more possessive, shifting from love to jealousy and concocting all sort of fantasies of Albertine's duplicity in his head. He is particularly maddened by suggestions that Albertine leads a secret, libertine, perhaps bi-sexual double life.
Marcel and Albertine's relationship dominate the fifth and sixth volumes of the novel, tellingly called "The Captive" and "The Fugitive."
Tickets are $60. The first performance of the run is a pay what-you-can show. For information, call (212) 279-4200 or visit http://www.playwrightshorizons.org.