By Jay Presson Allen, from the words and works of Truman Capote
Directed by Michael J. Drury
A review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2021 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
In 1975, the celebrated writer Truman Capote had become a celebrity making the rounds of galas, posh clubs, and talk shows, a languid, acid-tongued wit famous to people who had never read a word he had written. Improbably for the time, a media darling who was also an openly Gay man.
Jay Presson Allen’s Tru captures Capote at this moment. A moment that tested the loyalty of his New York City socialite friends with his upcoming novel Answered Prayers, an excerpt of which had just been published in Esquire magazine. Suddenly the scabrous toast of Manhattan is a social pariah and Capote has returned to his NYC apartment to spend a boozy evening reminiscing about his life.
Much of the dialogue in this one-person show is authentic, a rich stew of warm-hearted nostalgia and bitchy gossip that is never as vicious as Capote at his worst. It is highly entertaining but doesn’t plumb the greater depths of complex, troubled life.
If you are not familiar with Truman Capote’s physical manner and singular voice, you may be incredulous when you first hear Jason Cooper’s characterization, but it is, if anything, a restrained take on the acute insouciance of Capote’s unique extended southern drawl. Mr. Cooper’s timing and energy are arguably more distinct and measured than Capote, who at this point in his life was beset by the effects of a lifetime of alcohol and drug abuse, a sometimes ravaged and unfocused shadow of his former self.
My memories of the Truman from that period are intact, and I cannot be certain 70s Capote would hold our interest for 97 minutes, especially given the rate of alcohol consumption that takes place in the play, but Cooper works the language and emotional fluctuations with skill and feeling, an even greater challenge when you alone must keep the ball in the air. Perhaps the character’s self-absorption helps, as there are many flourishes where Cooper highlights the air of self-consciousness. This Capote always sees himself as onstage.
He occupies a rich and highly detailed environment, with a well-appointed apartment boasting a dusky, panoramic evening view of the NYC skyline by Eric Allgeier, soft illumination by Jesse Alford that falls in the final moments to an air of enigmatic mystery. Susan Toy’s costumes and the contributions of Jill Marie Schierbaum flesh out the look and feel of an especially fine design team. Frank Goodloe offers some simple tap choreography and Neill Robertson’s expert touch on makeup underlines how much work goes into a one-person show.
Truman makes a few phone calls and those voice-overs are capably rendered by Carol Williams, Susan McNeese Lynch, and Laura Ellis, herself in charge of the sound design.
Available On Demand March 26-28, April 2-4, 2021
P O Box 4185
Louisville, Kentucky 40204
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music, and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.