Tru – Review by Nancy Sasso Janis

Music Theatre of Connecticut’s MainStage is presenting “Tru” for in person performances in their Norwalk theatre, as well as simultaneous live streamed performances to enjoy online. This one-person show marks the final show of their five show 2020-2021 season.

After the venue closed for live performances on March 13, 2020, it pivoted to produce virtual programming March through Aug. 2020. Then, with the approval of Actors Equity and the state last Sept., it reopened with safe live theater in a hybrid model of a limited live, indoor audience as well as a virtual audience for every performance. So ‘Tru’ represents the MainStage finale to what has been a very challenging year for this theatre.

“The last year’s journey has taught all of us that we can never take our art, culture or humanity for granted again,” writes Kevin Connors in his director’s note.

Jay Presson Allen’s script for “Tru” was adapted from the words and works of Truman Capote. The play is set in the writer’s New York City apartment overlooking the United Nations during the week before Christmas 1975, soon after an excerpt from Capote’s infamous novel Answered Prayers has been published in Esquire magazine. The author’s friends, recognizing the characters as thinly veiled versions of themselves, have turned their back on the man they once considered a close confidant. As the writer speaks on the telephone and directly to the audience, we get a window into the life of one of America’s most celebrated writers.

The theatre’s live streams are shot with a single, mounted camera in the center section of the venue, behind the patrons seated in the audience. Because the stream is shot in high definition, it is very clear and feels no different than sitting in the same seat to view the entire performance. The production team recommends refreshing the page on your computer right at show time to ensure that the video plays properly.

Connors, the theatre’s Executive Artistic Director and Co-Founder, directed the production, making sure that the character does not veer into a caricature of Capote. The comedy in the script remains, balanced with the heavier elements of Capote’s alcoholism and loneliness.

Jeff Gurner returns to the Music Theatre of Connecticut stage for the fifth time to tackle the role of Truman Capote. He was most recently part of “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” that the theatre produced last December. The actor notes in his biography in the virtual program that he is “[p]roud to be a Nutmegger.”

Overall, the live streaming platform was easy to watch via YouTube using the link that was sent via email one hour before the show. At first the sound design by Will Atkin had difficulty getting the actor’s microphone to work at the same time as the background music and sound effects, at least from my computer monitor. Thankfully, it was quickly corrected. Lighting design by RJ Romeo flattered both the actor and the set and enhanced every change in tone of the two acts.

Sean Sanford collected a significant amount of props from the era. Diane Vanderkroef gets the credit for the costumes that reflect the wardrobe of Capote. The detailed scenic design by Lindsay Fuori includes plenty of red tones and books, drenched in the taste that its tenant describes as a “decorative disaster.”

“Tru” runs weekends through May 9, Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m.and 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. In person performances are at the theatre located at 509 Westport Avenue (Route 1) in Norwalk. Live streamed performances will be shown online through a link provided to ticket holders one hour before the show. The production runs 1 hour 45 minutes including a short intermission.