nytheatre.com review by Matt Roberson
July 5, 2011
Relationships blossom in many ways. Of course, we all dream of meeting that special someone on a brisk stroll in the park, or from across the room at a party. At the end of a blown con game? Not so much. But that’s the road Karoline Leach wants to take us down. It’s a daring plot choice, and potentially a very exciting one, had it been better executed by the playwright.
Adelaide Pinchin, a frail mouse of a lady, works at a posh millenary, not in the front, but in the back, “where the customers can’t see” her. Not that she’s unattractive, but this is her lot in life, and Adelaide accepts that. When she meets George Love, however, a change is sensed. Love seems to be opening Adelaide, helping her see great potential and possibility in the future. A hat shop of her own, perhaps? It’s too bad George is just playing with her, biding his time till he can steal her inheritance. It’s what he does, and no matter her feelings, to George, Adelaide is just another victim. This is the “tryst.”
With more work, the story of Tryst could become a unique spin on the con game storyline (“Rom-Con,” anyone?). But not in its present form. Leach’s play is erratic, jumping throughout from comic and cute to exceptionally dark and violent. Were we to believe these great leaps, Leach’s attempt at complexity would be new and thrilling. Here, however, plot moves are made simply to bring the story to a particular conclusion. Toss in an overdramatic monologue and “mommy” issues, and we’re left with a final scene that is as unpleasant as it is unbelievable.
As Adelaide, Andrea Maulella is very strong, and handles the play’s odd shifts in tone with great evenness. Mark Shanahan’s portrayal is also good, though at times, his efforts to make the slimy George Love more likable overreach. When expressing affection for his mark, Shanahan’s voice goes way up, enhancing the play’s already confusing nature. Alejo Vietti’s costumes and Michael Schweikardt’s set do a nice job of coloring the play’s world, and Joe Brancato’s blocking allows for lots of movement without ever becoming repetitive.
Clearly, Karoline Leach knows how to tell a good story, and can do so with very nice language. But as is, Tryst is confusing and not well plotted. Resting on two good performances, the Irish Rep production is okay. In lesser hands, however, it would be the audience who feels like the ones being conned.