… Proust II …
Albertine Regained, the second in Classic Stage’s Proust Project, isn’t as compelling as Swann in Love (reviewed directly above) because, though well acted, it’s not as good a story. Motivations are unclear: why on earth is Albertine, a young girl on a holiday with her friends at the beach, so drawn to the lethargic, “thin armed” Marcel? especially since she has an eager, suitable and equally wealthy suitor right at hand, Bloch. He may not be sufficiently sensitive for her taste but Marcel isn’t characterized as having any competitive advantage on his side. And Marcel’s way of “loving” Albertine, confining her in a stuffy house, and not making love to her, is so equivocal that it’s hard to see it as “love” in the romantic and passionate sense the characters use the word.
Just as Swann marries Odette when he has ceased to love her, so Marcel marries Albertine when, he says, he no longer loves her. Ah love’s perversities — Proust follows them with the subtlety of a fine line drawing, loving them more than love itself. You can tell Proust knew this story needed something extra — he introduces a female Iago character (that’s how he describes her) to keep things interesting but that character doesn’t quite do the trick, just lets you know the author saw the problem.
Albertine Regained does, however, have its own competitive advantage. In several stunning passages Proust, painting with a full brush and color palette, uses images from the outer world to convey inner states of mind. In that new territory opened up for exploration in the early Twentieth Century — the inner landscape — he was a great pioneer.
Albertine Regained was presented at Classic Stage March 30. Still to come in the Proust Project series based on Remembrance of Things Past is Waste of Time on April 6, and Encore: Swann in Love on April 13.