The Greenbelt Arts Center has provided the community with the truly unique opportunity to spend an intimate evening in the living room of the acclaimed author and flamboyant celebrity personality Truman Capote with their production of the one-man show Tru, by Jay Presson Allen, directed by Gayle Negri, and starring Larry LaRose.
Taking place over two days leading up to Christmas of 1975, the play finds Capote, best known for In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, weathering backlash from close friends who were mentioned in a scandalous chapter of his unfinished novel, Answered Prayers, published in Esquire Magazine, which functioned more like an article from The Enquirer with its salacious gossip of explicitly identified members of New York City’s celebrity elite. All the while, Capote’s lonely days in his apartment are underscored by battles with alcohol addiction and a tragic Christmas memory that haunts him. The text, a synthesis of Capote’s own words and writings, captures his essence as a flamboyantly charming yet lonely and tortured figure quite economically and with great finesse.
Upon entering the theatre space, it’s appropo that the first thing one will likely notice is Capote’s well-stocked and elegant liquor cart. The apartment set, designed by Gayle Negri and decorated by Roy Peterson, gave a snapshot of a luxe abode cluttered slightly by Christmas preparations; a luxe earth-toned Persian rug, champagne-colored couches, elegant floral arrangements, and an assortment of expensive and kitschy trinkets were littered with tinsel and wrapping paper. The New York cityscape backdrop, used to function as Capote’s window looking over the city, would have benefitted from additional window framing to aid in the sense of realism. The simple and effective costumes, sound, and lights were designed by Larry LaRose, Scott Bingen, and Den Giblin (with assistant ), respectively.
Larry LaRose took on the challenge of embodying one of the most colorful celebrity personalities and complex artists of the 20th century with aplomb. LaRose bears a striking resemblance to the iconic figure in a wide-brimmed black hat and sunglasses, and his immersion in the character was apparent. Careful to never fall into caricature, his replication of Capote’s signature thin, high voice was tactful, and effectively gave the text the recognizable tone and pattern of speech that it craved.
Watching him jaunt and prance about the apartment to Christmas jazz with plodding steps would provide moments of giddy delight while giving the sense that this was truly a man whose vitality was captive in a deteriorating body. Though the tic of a dry laugh felt overused to support humor, there were moments of genuine hilarity, namely in the captivating retelling of an episode in which Capote locked himself out of his apartment while wearing a particularly extravagant pink dress.
LaRose fell even more into his stride in the second act, his demeanor organically ebbing and flowing between whimsical and wistful. His acerbic sense of humor would give way to a cold feeling of loneliness, and moments of poignant introspection into the traumas of Capote’s childhood that haunted him throughout his life were rich with nuance. The honesty of his performance and his strikingly accurate manifestation of the figure gave the audience a window into who Truman Capote truly was.
Tru at the Greenbelt Arts Center gives a rare and enthrallingly authentic insight into one of America’s most fascinating celebrities of all time.
Running time: Two hours with a 15-minute intermission.
Tru runs for two more performances: tonight, Saturday, October 17, 2015 and at 8:00 pm, and tomorrow, Sunday, Oct.18, 2015 at 2:00 pm, at the Greenbelt Arts Center – 123 Centerway, in Greenbelt, MD. For tickets, purchase them at the door or online.