I wrote this review for Baristanet.com, and you can read the rest of it there. Meanwhile, as it’s playing in New York through June 5, wanted to point it out!
How it’s New York: Vega first began working on the idea as a student at Columbia, and it was Rattlestick Playwright Theater’s Kay Matschullat who got her to finish it (after they sat next to each other at a BAM benefit… I learned about that when interviewing Vega for Theatermania). There’s a song about longing to come to New York, too, from young Carson McCullers’ point of view.
How it’s Irish: McCullers says in the show she’s pure Irish– mostly through marriage. One of the last things she did before she died was see John Huston in Ireland. Also, lots of people who love Irish music love singer-songwriter Vega, too.
Suzanne Vega has always been a storyteller, through the songs she writes and sings. Some tell of an emotion, like “Small Blue Thing,” others invent characters. Her 1987 song “Luka,” about an abused child, even inspired Irish singer Luka Bloom’s choice of stagename, and is considered one of the earliest songs about child abuse. In Carson McCullers Talks About Love, which opened May 5 at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in New York, Vega puts the songs in the service of a dramatic story. She portrays the Southern writer, interspersed with songs written for the show (some of which she’s been performing in concert, including the hilarious song of writer-ly jealousy, “Harper Lee”).
And it’s a terrific match. First, the songs are wonderful, moody, melodic, catchy (music is also by Duncan Sheik, of Spring Awakening, with some additional music by Michael Jefry Stevens). On-stage musicians include pianist Joe Iconis and guitarist Andy Stack (Joe also has some lines, both as himself and as other characters). This is a chance to see Vega in a small Off-Broadway house, intimately, close-up; anyone who enjoys her music will find that alone worth the commute. But even better, Vega has created a fascinating theatrical portrait. She avoids the trap of artist bios, “And then I wrote (painted/composed/etc).” Instead, she shows us a woman struggling with love and life.
You don’t have to know anything about McCullers, the author of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1940), or The Member of the Wedding (1946), or even to have read any of her work, to find her a compelling character. She loved both men and women; she became a celebrity at age 23 with the publication of her first novel. She married her husband twice, had a debilitating stroke at age 30 that lost her the use of her left side; she was a free spirit in a constricting era. She hobnobbed with Truman Capote, Gypsy Rose Lee, W.H.Auden and Tennessee Williams, but never lost a kind of loneliness. She died of a stroke in 1967, at age 50.
Read the rest here!
Carson McCullers Talks About Love runs at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, 224 Waverly Place, off Seventh Avenue South between W. 11th & Perry Streets, Wed- Sat at 8, Sun. at 3 and Mon at 8, through June 5. Tickets at www.smarttix.com or 232-868-4444.