Tryst: One Night Only
It's recently been brought to my attention that straight men looking for sex have been approaching women in bars and asking if they think it's a good idea to buy a wallaby. I'm not making this up, as Anna Russell would say. Apparently there's a popular book called The Game, which has been successfully instructing would-be pick-up artists on the subtleties of being irresistible to women. (At least until morning.) Among other techniques, the book suggests you approach a woman you're attracted to and break the ice by telling her that your friend wants to buy a wallaby and you'd like to know if she thinks it's a good idea.
Is this really happening, dear readers? Spending most of my drinking hours in gay bars, I seem to have lost touch with the male/female mating dance.
The guy in Karoline Leach's new two-person play, Tryst, attracts women by being kind and considerate, showing interest in what they have to say, and treating them with gentlemanly respect. Of course, when you look like Maxwell Caulfield, the actor playing the role, you could probably ask her about wallabies and still be guaranteed some action by last call.
The Edwardian Londoner in question, who goes by the name of George Love (yup, that's his name), makes his living by seducing naïve women into marrying him and running off with all of their money after the wedding night.
"I always go through the formality of the wedding night", the sweetheart of a bloke tells us. "I spend the night with them and make love to them with kindness and consideration I like to think of it as quid pro quo."
His newest conquest-to-be is Adelaide Pinchin (Amelia Campbell), a timid shop girl suffering from negative body image who sews ladies hats with co-workers "Jane Parker with the funny leg" and "Rose with the teeth." ("We all got something wrong with us, that's why we're in the back room. Where the customers can't see us.")
Adelaide is both bewildered and bedazzled by George's attentions as he goes through the motions of courtship, reminding her to bring her bank book to the wedding so they can change the account to his name right away. There are twists and turns I won't reveal, except to say that eventually we begin to consider that perhaps George really does have a heart and that Adelaide not only has a brain, but even a bit of courage. Of course, it wouldn't be much of a play if everything went as George first planned.
Though it's difficult to muster up any kind of concern over what happens between the bad boy and his gullible target, the evening, though completely void of romance and eroticism, never fails to hold one's interest. That's because Leach's dialogue is always lively and engaging. These two talk a lot. And though Leach's text has them volleying expository monologues about with amusing results when contrasting George's arrogance with Adelaide's naiveté, and a monologue for the lady explaining how she came to hate her body is effective, the playwright and director Joe Brancato can do with a few more quiet moments where we can see the characters feeling emotions instead of analyzing them.
Both actors do fine work. Caulfield is an effective cad, fluidly alternating from cold and sarcastic to charming and cultured. Campbell appears as a fidgety, excitable twit at first, but believably matures as her new husband's plot is slowly revealed. Both have unscripted moments of showing skin that, aside from the draw of seeing two attractive actors unclothed, the play would be better without. When Caulfield removes his shirt, he reveals a 6-pack so impressive it had my guest wondering how his character could afford a gym membership on such a precarious income. Campbell has a completely nude scene that takes all attention away from a very important Caulfield monologue.
The design of the production is appropriately gloomy under Jeff Nellis' lighting with David Korins' set depicting a dreary London street and a simple boarding house room with admirable detail. Alejo Vietti's period costumes are attractive, while modestly middle class.
With its provocative title and erotic publicity photos, Tryst is a little too much like an Internet date with someone who has a hot personal ad but, although intelligent and reasonably interesting, isn't quite as sexy in real life.
Photos by Carol Rosegg