TRYST -- Dance of Death
It is a thrill to have Tryst on a stage at TheaterWorks once again in Connecticut. This time it’s mesmerizing audiences at TheaterWorks on Pearl Street in Hartford thru September 9. If you have not seen this fascinating work by British author Karoline Leach, you are missing a great piece of theater. If you have seen it, you must revisit it, so that you can closely follow the twists and turns of character and plot.
Tryst was spell-binding when first produced in 2006 at the Promenade Theatre on upper Broadway in NY. Joe Brancato, Founding Artistic Director of the Penguin Rep in NY's Rockland County, took over the direction, made some changes, and in a stroke of genius paired Andrea Maulella and Mark Shanahan in the roles of Adelaide Pinchin and George Love. In this two-character, two hour piece, except for one intermission, these actors are on stage the entire time and keep the intensity between them on a high feverish pitch. In 2008, Tryst was presented at the Westport Country Playhouse, where our Connecticut Critics gave Maulella the Outstanding Actress award, and a nomination for Best Play. Karoline Leach was a guest speaker after one of the performances. In 2011, the same three brought Tryst to the Irish Rep in NY.
Set in the underside of London in 1910, the playwright based Tryst on a true story. From the outset, George Love draws us in by admitting he is a criminal who seduces lonely women, marries them quickly, falsely, and secretly, takes whatever money they have and then ditches them. As George, who has been brought up in poverty and abuse, Mark Shanahan is hypnotizing, charming, and scary, his eyes popping open like large moons when he tells his stories. Thin as a bird, Andrea Maulella is at first a shy, self-demeaning Adelaide, who works in a hat shop with a group of women who are so marked by infirmities they are only permitted to work in the back room. An only child, she has been tortured and abused by her father, which is one of the reasons she falls head over heels for George, even though she knows he is a spinner of lies.
Armed with an inheritance of 50 pounds and a precious brooch, for which George salivates, Adelaide runs away to marry this reprobate. The scene designed by Michael Schweikardt, lit by Martin E. Vreeland, changes from the dark streets of London to a sad boarding house in a town by the sea where they are to spend their honeymoon. As she finds her strength, their dance of death spins in and out of control, as each tries to communicate, trying to define their existence. Is George capable of real love? Does Adelaide really believe he will go into business with her and make a life together? The two go through a vast range of emotions, which end in a shocking conclusion. Maulella and Shanahan play off of each other: Two musical instruments.
TRYST continues to be one of the most engaging plays of this or any season. Don't miss it! -- at Theater Works of Hartford. Only thru Sept 9.
This review originally aired on WMNR 88.1FM FINE ARTS RADIO