ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Whether quiet or roaring, cautious or reckless, the five voices of “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter” unite in a cry of isolation.
Carson McCullers’ classic novel reverberates with the message that everyone, especially misfits, needs to belong to something.
The Vortex Theatre will produce the book’s stage adaptation beginning on Friday, Feb. 14, running on weekends through March 8.
McCullers enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top of the best seller lists with the book’s 1940 publication.
“She wrote what she knew growing up in the South in Georgia at the height of the Depression,” director James Cady said. “I consider her some kind of friend of mine because I identify with these characters.”
The story begins in a Georgia mill town with two deaf-mutes, John Singer and Spiros Antonapoulos. They have lived together for years until Spiros is sent to an insane asylum after becoming mentally ill. The rest of the play orbits around four of Singer’s acquaintances: Mick, a tomboyish girl who dreams of becoming a classical composer; Jake, an alcoholic labor agitator; Biff, an observant diner owner and Dr. Copeland, an idealistic African American doctor.
Each pours their heart out to Singer. He changes their lives in ways they could never imagine.
Mick and Singer befriend one another. She sneaks out at night to listen to classical music coming from her neighbors’ window.
“She has a dream of becoming a great composer like Mozart and Beethoven,” Cady said. “She’s 14 years old.”
Singer buys her a radio.
The alcoholic Jake can’t sign up with the Communist Party; he’s too inebriated to find the meeting. The cafe owner Biff has just lost his wife. Dr. Copeland believes his occupation has frustrated his ambition to change the problems between blacks and whites. He is sick with tuberculosis and his son is in prison.
He’s also estranged from his children.
“He wanted them to be something other than who they are,” Cady said.
“These people are all longing for the ‘we’ in ‘me’,” Cady said. “They need to belong to something; some sort of community. And that’s what John Singer … brings them. They tell him their secrets, they pour their hearts out to him. The community starts to come together.
“It’s a heartbreaking play,” he added. “Everybody needs somebody. Everybody needs to belong to something. That’s the underlying theme in all her works.”