We’re so used to al fresco Shakespeare in the summer or musicals (Rent and Hair are back in town) that a dark, moody piece like Tryst, now playing at the Irish Repertory Theatre, seems like the real breath of fresh air.  Karoline Leach’s play about loneliness, about other people’s definitions of the self, is not a social indictment or commentary, as if we’re watching a new Sweeney Todd or Shaw or even reading Dickens.   Instead, it’s an adult drama that has something of a resemblance to Hitchcock’s Suspicion or even Cukor’s Gaslight—Hollywood stories of women who realize that men should never be trusted.  There’s no revisionist, Feminist, or universal message, or not one that seems new anyway—the mind games, soliloquies, and close-ups of the battle of the sexes nod to Strindberg, and the Freudianism might put you in mind of Psycho.  But the truth is that this is entertainment and atmosphere, the best movie Alfred Hitchcock and Cary Grant never filmed (if you could have gotten Grant to do it after the failure of None but the Lonely Heart)—perfect for hot nights and, maybe, a film option.  

But who needs Cary Grant—or Joan Fontaine or Ingrid Bergman–anyway?  The acting of Andrea Maulella and Mark Shanahan, in this two-hander concerning a con man and his mark, is specific and focused. Maulella, as a milliner with hypersensitive, spasmodic, slapping, shooting, exacting hands, is an artist of feathers and ribbons and felt. Watch her neck, too, craning, lifting, a giraffe forever weighted down by the density of physical being and industrial London (you might see cripples like a Laura, from The Glass Menagerie, Hulga from “Good Country People” in her—or even Ingrid Thulin in Cries and Whispers, unable to control flyaway hands ).  Mark Shanahan plays the petty criminal, who doesn’t really know where his lying begins or can end; he only knows some get taken “and some get took.” His character describes himself as “careful.” Watch the care with which he pours buckets of water for a bath into an aluminum tub that looks like a coffin.   If you only know this actor’s work as the uptight, congenial, comic captain in The Irish Rep’s production of The Shaughraun (as I did), you’ll be surprised by the shading of his character work. 

As an afterthought, you might decide to call Tryst “disturbing,” even when you know it works best as a commercial product.  It also has style, which is not new to the Irish Repertory Theatre;  in the past, it has asked Tony Walton to direct maybe the most gorgeous Candida ever produced.  From the period orange-brown wedding dress in Tryst–bought to be sensible–to the deep string music playing in the background (somebody might even see this drama as being fashioned into a kind of chamber musical), the quality associated with this company, which has included revivals of Yeats, Shaw, and O’Neill, is a hallmark.  Somewhere John Simon is relieved, too, that, finally, here is one show where the frontal nudity isn’t male.  Kudos to Joe Brancato for staging this 1997 gem.

© 2011 by Bob Shuman

Video direction/photography: Marit Shuman

Visit The Irish Repertory Theatre on the Web: http://www.irishrep.org/

 

Tryst

by Karoline Leach

directed by Joe Brancato

July 1st – August 21st

Click here for more information.

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TRYST is a riveting romantic thriller set in Edwardian London. Part romance, part psychological thriller, TRYST tells the story of handsome con-man George Love, who preys on well-off women, wooing them, marrying them, and leaving them penniless and husbandless the day after the honeymoon…that is, until he meets his match in lonely milliner Adelaide Pinchin.

TRYST is an intense and tantalizing play intended for mature audiences.

WHAT THE CRITICS THINK…

"If you're chomping at the bit to see two Edwardian neurotics face off – and who isn't? – you're encouraged to head towards The Irish Repertory Theatre, where Karoline Leach's Tryst is having A CHILLING REVIVAL." – Theatermania

CRITIC'S PICK! "MAULELLA AND SHANAHAN GIVE AWE-INSPIRING PERFORMANCES that are only bolstered by their onstage chemistry. Shanahan moves between scheming con man and sugar-toothed wooer with ease, while Maulella, brimming with subtle eccentricities, skirts around him."- Backstage

"The production is directed by Joe Brancato with a sure hand that builds the suspense in this battle-of-the-damaged-sexes thriller. Maulella and Shanahan subtly and expertly provide convincing hope that their characters can transcend the narrow roles proscribed by their class and unfortunate circumstances." – Associated Press

"If Tryst were a paperback, it would be a best-selling beach read. This Edwardian psychological thriller offers an edge of romance, plenty of conniving, a dose of comedy and sharp suspense. With Mark Shanahan and Andrea Maulella, DIRECTOR JOE BRANCATO KEEPS THE PLOT AS TENSE AND TWISTY AS AN ARGENTINE TANGO. "- CurtainUp

"THE EMOTIONAL DANCE THAT GOES ON BETWEEN THESE TWO LOST SOULS IS COMPELLING, THANKS TO THE PASSION IN THE PERFORMANCES. Shanahan makes a dynamic seducer and Mauletta manages to deftly combine vulnerability with a streak of inner strength." – Wolf Entertainment Guide

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