Truman Capote was one of the few American authors who was equally famous for being a controversial celebrity. Openly gay and unafraid to take risks with his work, Truman was an anomaly whose most famous stories such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood are, to this day, still classics. His grand life is examined in the Diversionary Theatres’ production of the one-man show, Tru.
The monodrama opens a week before Christmas 1975, as Truman (Todd Blakesley) spends time in his Manhattan apartment. A few minutes into the show, Truman tells the audience that an excerpt of an unfinished novel, Answered Prayers, was recently published in Esquire magazine. He reveals that several of his wealthy friends referenced in the book have stopped speaking to him, even though the tale was fictionalized. As the day progresses, Truman continues to come to terms with the backlash of the short extract, while also sharing anecdotes about his past.
Jay Presson Allen’s script, takes a bit of time to get going. Early on, it is not initially clear if Tru will just consist of Truman performing day-to-day activities, including talking on the phone and trying to decorate his Christmas tree. Events start to pick up, once Truman begins addressing the audience.
Instead of being a traditional solo performance, Allen’s dialogue primarily consists of stream of consciousness. Many of the brief narratives are introduced randomly, which feels surprisingly organic and even true, no pun intended.
While not doing a complete imitation of the world-renowned figure, Blakesley accurately channels the complicated and contradictory personality of Truman. The actor portrays him as confident but fragile; narcissistic but caring; cynical but sentimental.
Blakesley handles the challenging role with ease. He captures the razor sharp wit and intelligence of the famed writer.
When a performer is a towering force of nature, sometimes the efforts of the behind the scenes team can be taken for granted. The good news with Tru is that the production team really does a bang-up job of presenting a stylish world.
Allen’s writing requires a director who can navigate the many different tones from humorous to grim. Derek Charles Livingston is able to do this in spades, and he allows Blakesley to roam around the apartment, which makes the small stage feel surprisingly large.
Some of Livingston’s most inspired directorial choices are the climatic sequences of both acts. He utilizes Luke Olson’s lighting design and sound designer Kevin Anthenill’s original music to depict Truman at his lowest. As the lighting becomes darker and the score becomes more discomforting, the icon briefly appears as a tortured soul who could be driven to go off the deep end.
Fans of Truman will likely be impressed with the amount of detail scenic designer and constructionist, Matt Scott, has included in the depiction of Tru’s sophisticated apartment. His pad initially seems like a merry place that can easily brighten a person’s day. However, it eventually becomes clear that the residence is also a cover for Truman’s deep unhappiness.
Blakesley gets to wear costumes from Peter Herman, that fit Truman’s flamboyant and outlandish personality. The most important choice that Herman made was to include the wordsmith’s trademark hat. Whenever Blakesley puts it on, he looks eerily similar to the prolific individual.
As downbeat as Tru can be, the interpretation also celebrates the man and his unforgettable time on earth. Even though he suffered from alcoholism and drug addiction, he still accomplished so much before his untimely death in 1984. The fact that Allen is able to acknowledge this keeps the piece from being a depressing experience.
Blakesley, Allen and the crew of Tru have crafted a moving tribute to a one of a kind human being. As the final play for the Diversionary’s 2014 season, the year has ended on a high note.