Writer/raconteur/professional gay Truman Capote was out – and in-your-face about it – long before it was fashionable or even permitted in polite company. He got away with it because he was amusing and likable – and threw a great party. (A 1966 party costing $75,000, where Capote hosted “400 of my truest friends,” was named “party of the century” by the press.)
He was also a good writer, publishing his first story at age 8. His most famous works: “In Cold Blood” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
But his penchant for telling stories got him in trouble later in life, and when he allowed a chapter of his unfinished, catty tell-all novel “Answered Prayers” to be published in “Esquire,” he quickly found himself abandoned by longtime friends who recognized themselves in the story.
This is where we meet Todd Blakesley, playing Capote in Jay Presson Allen’s one-hander “Tru” at Diversionary Theatre through Dec. 21. Derek Charles Livingston directs.
It’s Dec. 23 and Capote sits alone in his New York apartment. We hear one-sided phone conversations punctuated by occasional confidences directed at the audience, and taped comments from some of the women in his life.
Blakesley doesn’t look or sound like Capote, which would be less of a problem if Allen’s script weren’t a hodgepodge of unchronological reminiscences that neither hang together nor reveal much about the man other than his facility for one-liners. He mentions a whole lot of important people in passing, but it’s never really clear why they’re important to him or should be of interest to us.
Worst of all, Allen doesn’t give us any insight into the psyche of this colorful but troubled character, who comes across here as a bit of a freak.
The first act concentrates on his relationships with others, including his mother, who divorced his father early and left the child with her four unmarried siblings – three sisters and a brother.
“I used to be famous because I wrote books,” he says. “Now I’m famous for being famous. Fame is good for one thing ... they’ll cash your check in a small town.”
In the second act, he’s off the bottle and attempting to embark on an exercise regimen. But he still muses about the past and the military school he ended up in, “a miserable succession of bugle-blowing prisons, grim reveille-ridden summer camps.”
He talks about his mother’s suicide and his refusal to go out the same way (he died in 1984 of liver cancer complicated by phlebitis and multiple drug intoxication).
It’s difficult to imagine this strange little man with the huge personality being boring; unfortunately Allen’s script manages to make him so.
Credit Matt Scott for the expansive, comfortable set, Peter Herman for the costume design, Luke Olson for the lighting and Kevin Anthenill for the sound and composition tasks.
“Tru” plays through Dec. 21 at Diversionary Theatre, 4545 Park Blvd. in University Heights in San Diego, California.
Thursday at 7 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm.
Tickets: (619) 220-0097 or HERE.
To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.