Palm Beach Dramaworks’ “Tru” Provides Full-Scale Production of One-Man Show
By Nicholas Palmieri
Palm Beach Dramaworks proves with its new production of the one-man semi-biographical play “Tru” by Jay Presson Allen that the number of actors in a show has no bearing on the company’s full-scale commitment to quality.
“Tru” stars Rob Donohoe as writer Truman Capote, who examines his life in the aftermath of publishing chapters from a novel which, while under the guise of fiction, was actually about the people in his social circles. The script is firmly planted in its 1975 setting, with Capote dropping famous names at every opportunity. Viewers more familiar with the time period will get a kick out of the pop culture references and feel as if they are back in that time. But even for this young reviewer, Donohoe’s lively delivery of each name gave all the information I needed to understand each one’s significance.
With Capote as the sole character in the two-hour play, one might think the performance would get old before the ending. However, the structure of the play, combined with Donohoe’s commitment to the character’s journey, makes sure this does not happen.
The play starts with Capote talking on the phone and going call to call, at one point answering a door and briefly interacting with someone off-screen. This all gives off the feeling of a full cast while using only one actor. As the play continues on and Capote hangs up his phone, his actions and the words he says to himself continue to entertain as if the audience is looking in on someone home alone. Eventually, the audience begins to feel as if they are being addressed directly in a conversation with an old friend, leading up to when Capote explicitly acknowledges the audience. The play continues to its conclusion from there as Capote covers progressively deeper and more intimate topics. The way this gradual connection builds between Capote and the audience keeps viewers interested and engrossed in the play in a way other one-man shows do not.
All of this would be for naught without Donohoe’s superb characterization, under the direction of Lynnette Barkley. From his quirky high-pitched voice to his vibrant movements, it was clear Donohoe had done his research and added his own flair while remaining true to the real person. His commitment to the narrative arc drives the play, as his Capote’s air of flippant self-importance slowly gives way to deep insecurities about his socialite lifestyle and life itself. My favorite touch was in the three times the character danced: cheerfully at the beginning of the play, anxiously in the middle, and despairingly at the end. All were unmistakably Capote, but each also reflected the point where the character was in his journey.
The production’s technical details remained as meticulous as any other Palm Beach Dramaworks show. Capote’s costumes reflect his offbeat, flamboyant personality while remaining period-accurate, and the set of a New York apartment appears ornately decorated, as befits the character. The lighting and sound design work to further bring the audience into the conversation with Capote, at points, subtly highlighting the audience itself as he speaks to them. Everything remains as top-notch with this solo show as it was with Dramaworks’ 14-character production that opened the season.
This production of “Tru” comes highly recommended for Capote fans and for those who want to see the storytelling heights that can be achieved with only one actor. “Tru” runs through January 1. Tickets are $66 and can be purchased via phone at (561) 514-4042 or online at palmbeachdramaworks.org.