Yvonne Korshak reviews Off-Broadway, Broadway, Film and Art

Tag: Matt McGrath

Review | My Brilliant Divorce by Geraldine Aron | Directed by Matt McGrath | With Polly Draper | Bay Street Theatre, Sag Harbor, Long Island

This is a one-person show in which Angela, a 44-year old woman, recounts the story of her divorce, from her husband’s abrupt announcement that he’s leaving her through her stages of coping — better and worse. The play itself is mainly cliché and the pleasure of watching it — and it is fun if you find yourself there — is thanks to Polly Draper’s fascinating style, backed up by the stunning set.

Polly Draper is worldly and vulnerable at the same time.  She’s tall and slim and wears her clothes marvelously.  She’s beautiful and not overdone.  She’s wry and sad, amusing and just the OK side of desperate.  She’s fun to be with, even in her miserable predicaments.  The set matches her in an abstract way, vertical, sleek, askew but balanced.

We learn what happens to her and her inward responses through direct monolog as well as dramatic interchanges in which Miss Draper voices several parts, shifting among multiple accents and from male to female at a fast clip.  Divorce is a rotten story: and whether you’ve gone through it or not, you know enough to recognize its ins-and-outs and phases.

She copes with her shaken sense of self-worth, her husband leaves her for a younger woman (the universal “bimbo”, of course).  Her grown daughter is distant and no help.  Her mother ranges from disinterested to accusatory.  She herself ranges from self-righteous to self-accusatory (the play could have used more of Angela looking into herself and learning; what it provides of that is cursory.)  The absent husband ranges from initial generosity — “You will want for nothing” — to war over money that brings her to near-poverty.  She needs a job but, as a woman out of the job-market, and fiscally well taken care for many years, she’s lost her skills — an all-too common stuation.  She thinks she wants him back but, when the opportunity actually arises, she doesn’t act.  Now he wants to “return home”, now he’s on to yet another bimbo.

She hangs in there through it all, and moves to a better place.  Had she also moved to a deeper self-knowledge, the play would have more heft.  As it is, it’s something like a stand-up comic bit, one with some good laughs, thanks to Miss Draper’s timing in conveying her own rueful understanding of all that befalls her.  It’s light fare, not really a play but a skit blown up to a play.

My Brilliant Divorce plays at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, Long Island through June 24.

Review | Tru by Jay Presson Allen | With Darrel Hammond as Truman Capote | Directed by Matt McGrath | Bay Street Theatre, Sag Harbor, Long Island

Tru — for Truman — is a one-person play that takes up Capote’s life after he published in Esquire magazine chapters of his novel Answered Prayers  in which he exposed the seamy side of the lives of many of his wealthy, socialite friends.  Fiction — but everyone of his crowd recognized themselves and their friends in the thinly disguised characters.

It’s the mid 1970’s and Capote is at the height of his fame as a writer — hence the rich friends — mired in alcohol and drugs and causing what were, for the time, sexual indiscretions of a gay life.

We find him in his handsome successful writer’s apartment in New York City near the United Nations building, appealingly evoked by the set.  ACT I focuses on Capote’s relationships with others.  It’s Christmas and he’s feeling abandoned by his lover who’s abroad.  Calling everybody who’s anybody “Honey,” he mends bridges with his fancy friends, especially the wives.  He’s big among the little people, too.  A telegraph operator gushes, some nobody sends him a poinsettia which he tosses out.   He ranges from imperious to babyish.

ACT II brings a more inward view.  He’s off the bottle, planning on a physical fitness regime, and morose — the word “suicide” is used often.  He speaks of his early life, his abandonment by his mother “but the family took pretty good care of me,” his childhood drive to write, publication of his first story when he was eight in which — like Answered Prayers — he made fun of people he knew and aroused their ire, and, moving forward, a well-known wild party he threw in the ‘60’s, and, later, the evidently inexplicable, shocking suicide of his mother.  We finally pick up a dramatic conflict:  his successful resistance to suicide in the face of his mother having succumbed to it.

Capote’s affected style wears thin quickly in ACT I.  We know he was a writer of depth and power, but put it this way:  if we didn’t know the man we were watching was a fine writer, we’d think he was a superficial, self-focused bore.  ACT II disappoints in a different way:  we hear him recount personal events, but not in a way that provides insight.  His resistance to suicide, in contrast to his mother, is interesting and as a dramatic conflict could have enlivened the play, but it comes too late, and her death is too little explored.

Remembering Philip Seymour Hoffman’s wonderful impersonation of Capote in the film, Capote, one can’t help thinking that if Hoffman played the role, the play would be more fun to watch.  Darrell Hammond is a fine actor but he seems too large and rough hewn in his style and manner to catch the seductive childishness of Capote, his southern accented babyish voice, and his odd allure.

Two whole acts in which Capote speaks — but we don’t really know from Tru much about who this man was.

Tru played at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, Long Island, through June 26.

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