As Jaston (Jay-ston) Williams takes the stage as Truman Capote I have two obstacles to overcome. One is Vera Carp. I must separate this actor who is so identified as the creator and star of the Tuna series from his beloved character. Two, Williams does not imitate Capote’s voice or lisp which so identified the author. It was a bit like watching Oprah in The Butler, it took a few minutes to get past who I was watching but once I did there was a great performance to enjoy.
Set in Truman Capote’s New York Apartment overlooking the UN we are given a window into the life of the legendary writer/celebrity in a play that uses the authors own words and works to tell his story. Set over two days just before Christmas in 1975 we find the author reeling from the repercussions of the publication of a chapter of his forthcoming novel “Answered Prayers” in Esquire Magazine.
Capote believed that “Answered Prayers” was his “masterwork” and he put nearly twenty years into its’ creation. Capote missed multiple deadlines and renegotiated the books contract and deadline multiple times. In an attempt to buy himself some more time he agrees to allow Esquire to publish a chapter of the book, a chapter that includes sordid details of the lives of many of his high society friends. The thinly veiled characters in the book fooled no one and led to the loss of many of those in his inner circle. The likes of Gloria Vanderbilt and the Head of CBS Bill Paley and his wife Babe among others were no longer interested in Capote as part of their world.
Capote described this period of his life as feeling like “a spiritual orphan, like a turtle on its back.” He eased the pain of his exile with vodka and pills and as act one progresses his drinking goes from sipping to gulping. As the liquor intake increases so do his mood swings, many of which take him into incredible anger. From campy and catty to downright vicious Williams is spot on as the alcoholic chameleon slipping in and out of anger like a cozy cardigan.
Filled with the great one liners that you would expect from Capote, and the struggles of a pill popping alcoholic, Williams performance will make you laugh and at times make you uncomfortable. You are watching what appears to be unravelling of the great Capote.
Particularly wrenching is watching him in act two as nursing an incredible hangover after a night out with Ava Gardner he is determined to not drink. While determined, just across his living room lies the bar he visited so often just the day before. Watching Williams you can almost hear it calling his name.
Unfortunately, “Answered Prayers” was still unfinished when Capote died in 1984. Capote himself blamed the repeated delays on writers block. I imagine the loss of so many intimates and the ensuing downward spiral was largely responsible for him never being able to complete the work that had brought such turmoil into his life. Tru gives us an amazing insight into the beginning of this downfall.
Tru Runs through February 8th at Theater Three in the Quadrangle in Uptown Dallas Tickets are $10-$50 and available at theatre3dallas.com. The intimate arena theater does not have a bad seat from which to experience William’s gripping treatment of two days in the life of one of the last century’s biggest celebrities.
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