Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tru by Jay Presson Allen with Jaston Williams, Zach Theatre, January 10 - March 10, 2013

Austin Live Theatre review

by Michael Meigs
Tru by Jay Presson Allen with Jaston Williams, Zach Theatre, Austin TX

Jaston Williams and director Larry Randolph take us to another place and time with Tru, now on an extended run at the Zach's intimate theatre-in-the-round Whisenhunt stage. Michael Raiford's clever low-level set is Truman Capote's UN Plaza apartment in New York City in 1975. It's a long long way from Greater Tuna, where Williams and Joe Sears romped, mugged and portrayed a whole looney town -- or, for that matter from Thornton Wilder's Our Town in which Williams played the somber stage manager for the Zach Theatre's production almost three years ago.

Truman Capote was a tiny man, only 5' 3", but he was larger than life in the monotones of the middle of the twentieth century in the United States. He was self-made, for one thing, riding the power of his pen out of a dreary childhood of neglect in south Alabama. Sensitive short stories such as the classic A Christmas Memory and Breakfast at Tiffany's opened doors, and a dreamy come-hither photograph on the dust jacket of one collection scandalized some and intrigued others. In mid-career he spent four years researching In Cold Blood, a novelized true-crime account serialized in the New Yorker magazine and a best-seller when published in 1966 by Random House.

Capote was flagrantly, unapologetically homosexual at a time when most gay men were hiding desperately in the closet. His persona as a coy, sarcastic and extravagant queen astonished middle America, and he became a celebrity on television talk shows. He hung out with the jet set, including Lee Radziwell, sister of Jackie Kennedy, and CBS president William Paley and his wife Babe. Capote wrote almost nothing of note after the huge success of In Cold Blood. He became a professional celebrity socialite and sank deeper into alcoholism and drug addiction. He kept notes on his rich friends, with the idea of writing a Proustian account one day that would be titled Answered Prayers. In 1975 he agreed to allow Esquire magazine to publish four chapters of the long-delayed work. The rich friends who had found him some amusing were shocked to see their lives, peccadillos and anxieties etched in acid. Some were named and others were only thinly disguised. Virtually all of them immediately shunned Capote.

Playwright Jay Presson Allen chose to set this portrait of Capote in that specific moment and place -- Capote's desperately lonely Christmas Eve in 1975. It's a one-man show, two acts drawn virtually entirely from Capote's own published words and broadcast comments. It's a huge and colorful catalog, and Allen has shaped it cleverly into two acts. This script is an invitation to tour de force, and Jaston Williams is simply breathtaking in it.

Read more at AustinLiveTheatre.com . . . .

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