Tryst Reviewed

Tryst is a story of love, lies and manipulation. It’s a story we’ve seen many times before.  Has IT been done better? Yes, many times. Worse? Many times as well. And so this familiar, middling affair breeds a little bit of contempt.

Karoline Leach’s talky play is set is London a century ago, but distance does not make the heart any fonder of what occurs onstage at the Promenade Theater.  British hunk Maxwell Caulfield (he of Empire Records and Grease 2 semi-fame) plays George Love, a handsome con man who preys upon virginal spinsters with deep pockets.  Amelia Campbell is his most recent conquest, Adelaide Pinchin.  She works in a hat shop, but is so shy she stays in the back, afar from any customers. George meets and woos Adelaide in record time, and they soon marry and vacation at an oceanside estate. 

Maxwell Caulfield and Amelia Campbell

Maxwell Caulfield and Amelia Campbell

George is the male equivalent of a black widow, and there is never any suspense that he plans to make Adelaide the latest in his line of conquests, and make off with her inheritance.  As suave as he is when it comes to wooing women, the second half of his scheme is far less artless. George repeatedly and tactlessly reminds Adelaide to bring her bank book with her, and she is such a dolt, she agrees.

Or is she?  And does she?  A second act turn reveals that she may be on to George’s game.  But it is hard to decipher whether Adelaide wants to keep George from killing her, or simply keep George at her side my guess is the latter, but it is Leach’s achievement, and the crowning glory of Campbell’s performance that they do indeed keep the audience guessing at all.  On the page, this play is hardly a thriller.  But Joe Brancato’s skilled pacing does keep the audience drawn in.

And it’s Campbell who provides the most dimensions, adding additional layers to Adelaide where one did not imagine it possible.  But the relationship is lop-sided.  Caulfield, who is often mush-mouthed in his performance here, has little with which to work.  He is a cad, through and though.  He may win the money, but he never has a chance to win over his audience.  An additional twist at the end of the play shifts everything into a new perspective, but it is too little, too late. The audience recognizes it in its head, but not its heart.

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