By Mike “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant
It’s mayhem in the mind of Truman Capote (Eddie Korbich) in Jay Presson Allen’s one man show, “Tru.” Capote was shorter than average but larger than life, and the play captures a particular era; Christmas eve 1975 shortly after a chapter of his promised masterpiece “Answered Prayers” was released in an issue of Esquire. It was a moment in mid-November which turned the social butterfly into a social pariah.
The infamous chapter drops a dime on his harem of swans; his ladies who lunch with kings and queens including Lady Slim Keith, Babe Paley (wife of CBS mogul William S. Paley) and Gloria Vanderbilt. The glossy magazine pages of Esquire went nuclear, exploding throughout New York society. It was Capote’s social suicide, committed in print. Death by Underwood.
The play grapples with the loss of Capote’s famous friendships, but hits the major tenants of his life; he lived on books, gossip and alcohol. He loved to disco. He loved to party. He talks openly about his homosexuality, and his peccadillos (though it’s not dirty or smutty, leave the kids at home). The play posits the question was he the bully or the victim or both?
One man shows are hard. You have to keep the audience engaged for the entire time with few interruptions. Korbich managed aptly. There are visceral moments when the play packs a deep, emotional gut punch. The wallop hits hard at some universal fears for single audience members, “Will anyone love me,” and “Will I die alone?”
Capote had a slow, sly way of talking. While Korbich mimics his unusually shrill voice, it’s a clocking in at too many RPMs. In the actor and director’s defense, had he been speaking at Capote speed it would have added thirty extra minutes to the show. Director Ted Pappas lets the bon mots fly with precision.
James Noone’s set is impeccable, replete with tasteful furnishings, a stunning view of New York, and a bright, beautiful Christmas tree. There is a table filled with paperweights and snow globes, provided by the Pittsburgh Glass Center and a plethora of donors. It cries out to be examined. You’ll want to pick up each one and marvel in its artistry (try, at the very least, to sit in the first few rows to see them as closely as you can).
Allen’s script wanders a bit, but, as with all biographies, some parts are just less interesting than others. There are, however, some genuinely funny moments, and some genuinely sad ones. The problem is that Capote is not the most likeable man, but it’s easy to pity him. It’s just not easy to love a play about a pitiable man. However the story is thought-provoking and emotionally gripping. “Tru” is like a raw garlic, it’s powerful, biting, and it stays with you long afterward. Some may find it a little off-putting, but it can really spice up your evening. If you’re looking for an evening of insight into one of the world’s most famous celebrity authors, see “Tru.” If you’re looking for a few laughs, this is also the play for you. It’s funny because it’s Tru.
“Tru” runs till May 22 at the O’Reilly Theatre, 621 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. For more information, click here.