Trying – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

When a prestigious judge with a long history of service to his country acknowledges that his time on this earth is nearly at its expiration point, he reluctantly admits he needs help to organize his office and his memoirs. 25-81 could be a lopsided basketball score, but it’s the ages of the characters in an absorbing personal drama “Trying” that is earning standing ovations at Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company weekends until May 19. Penned by Joanna McClelland Glass, it tells the true story of her relationship with Judge Francis Biddle from 1967-68 when she served as his secretary.

Judge Biddle is so cantankerous he makes Scrooge look like a pussy cat. That certainly does not make him one iota more reasonable about having a stranger invade his space. Here is a man who has served as Attorney General under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and presided as Chief Judge at the Nuremberg trials.

Thankfully his new secretary Sarah, a newlywed from Canada, comes with a required supply of fortitude, spine, grit and stamina, all of which she will need in abundance. The honorable Judge Biddle with his long list of political appointments and legal degrees is also irascible, disagreeable, stubborn and difficult to impossible to please. He is a stickler for punctuality and grammar, has enough physical ailments to fill an encyclopedia, quotes Shakespeare and e. e. cummings admirably but forgets who he calls on the phone before they answer.

The two wage a powerful battle of words as each “tries” to understand the other. This dramatic character study speaks to generation gaps and the need to find ways to bridge the hills and valleys that separate us as humans. Artistic director Tom Holehan has assembled a truly fine pair of actors Al Kulcsar and Celine Montaudy in this excellent production.

For tickets ($22 and 20), call Square One Theatre at 203-375-8778 or online at www.squareonetheatre.com. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. All productions take place at the Stratford Academy, 719 Birdseye Street, Stratford.

Discover the humanity as a young naive girl with a steel magnolia backbone tackles a renown but crusty elder statesman and they come out at the other end the better for the battle. Beware of initially entering the lion’s den, but you will soon delight in the battle of brains and war of wits and words you will encounter.

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