A Penny Dreadful With a Twist

By Bob and Karen Isaacs

George Love (the scary and slippery Mark Shanahan) is a scoundrel who preys on what he believes are women of low esteem, and who lives by deceiving them into believing he loves them when all he wants is their money.

Mark Shanahan and Andrea Maulella in “Tryst” at Westport Country Playhouse, now playing through August 23. (203) 227-4177. Photos by T. Charles Erickson

We meet George on a grungy street in London as he awakens hungry to a gloomy day with no immediate prospects. He spies the hat maker, Adelaide (a dishrag of a woman captured excellently by Andrea Maulella) as she is arranging a hat in the shop window. With a nose for a prize, George attacks with words that totally belie Andrea’s self image and what the audience sees of her. Sweeping her off her feet with an elaborate series of lies about himself and what he says he sees in her, he learns that she has 50 pounds in the bank and apparently is open to suggestion. He convinces her to run off to marry him, and entrust him with her 50 pounds.

Karoline Leach, the playwright, says she got the idea for Tryst when reading about a real life case and needing to explain to herself why so many seemingly intelligent women allow themselves to be seduced by an obvious con man.

The twist here is that once Adelaide and George are on their honeymoon, she turns the tables on him and is no longer playing the victim to his deceptions. It's clear she too has her own agenda in marrying Mr. Love and will try anything to get what she wants.

As the two spar, you will be totally absorbed in the details and in the machinations of each person. There is no question that the performances will hold your attention and have you shifting your cheering from one side to the other as you await the outcome.

Under the solid direction of Joe Brancato – he directed the off-Broadway production -- the story moves swiftly and the performers make clear their positions. In fact at one point you can't help believing what George says; and even at the end you're really not sure what the truth about him is. This has a lot to do with the talents of Shanahan and Maulella who create their characters.

The scenic design for Tryst is neatly achieved by a David Korins as he takes the action from the gloomy street to the shabby honeymoon room. Not a little success of this work is the atmospheric lighting by Jeff Nellis, the fine costume presentation by Alejo Vietti and the mood sound of Johnna Doty.

Tryst is at the Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, off Route 1, through August 23. For tickets and information call the box office toll free at 1-888-927-7529.

This review appeared in Shore Publications.

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