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THEATER — ‘The North China Lover’

Heidi Stillman

Heidi Stillman

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Updated: September 27, 2013 4:01PM

Heidi Stillman, who has adapted and directed Marguerite Duras’ “The North China Lover,” for the Lookingglass Theatre, first read the quasi-autobiographical novel by the French writer and filmmaker about 18 years ago.

“It was so incandescent, so intriguing, I remember I was almost shaking,” Stillman recalled. “I started an adaptation based on the first three chapters, we did a workshop of it [with a young Mary Zimmerman as the older Duras], and then I just let it go.”

But the story told by Duras (1914-1996) — about the remembered love affair between an adolescent French girl in the colonial Indochina of the 1930s, and a wealthy 27-year-old Chinese man — stayed with her.

“The material is so tricky, so complex, so transgressive in some ways,” said Stillman. “There is the age difference between the lovers, the descriptions of sex from the female point of view, plus the messy but very interesting family situations.”

The Lookingglass production (running Sept. 25-Nov. 10), stars Tony Award-winning actress Deanna Dunagan as the mature writer, “M,” Rae Gray (“Slowgirl”) as “The Child,” and Tim Chiou (who has worked in films and TV) as “The Lover.”

Said Stillman: “When I see Deanna in her costume — the skirt, the vest, the large, black-rimmed glasses, the many rings, all suggested by archival photos — I sometimes think Duras herself is standing there.”

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