nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
April 4, 2006
Karoline Leach's new play Tryst pits a smooth-talking gigolo with larcenous intent against a repressed spinster with low self-image in a contest of will shrouded in sexy mystery. Maxwell Caulfield plays the gigolo, who goes by the improbable name of George Love; his game is to find a lonely woman in a public place, chat her up, pretend to become interested and then fall in love with her, marry her, talk her into bringing her bank book with her on the honeymoon, steal her money, and leave her flat. Well, perhaps not entirely flat: "I spend the night with them, and make love to them with tenderness and consideration."
Amelia Campbell plays the spinster, Adelaide Pinchin, and her game is not so complicated, at least not at first. She works in a hat shop, but because she's so shy and homely (she says) she's consigned to stay in the back, away from the customers. She lives with her parents, has no friends and few prospects save a £50 inheritance and a diamond brooch she was given by a favorite aunt.
George spies Adelaide through the hat shop window and immediately begins to execute his plan. Within two days (!) she's agreed to marry him. Before we know it, they're at a modest boardinghouse in Weston Super Mare, man and wife. All systems are go, as far as George is concerned. Things look to take a little longer than he'd like—Adelaide seems fearful when it's time to consummate their vows, as it were, and she recoils from George's touch. As the curtain comes down on Act I, we leave the two demurely playing cards and drinking tea on their wedding night.
Leach provides twists as expected in the play's second act, but I'm afraid they're not very interesting. The likeliest outcome is for George to get a comeuppance, and indeed he does; but the transformation in Adelaide that brings it about doesn't jive with what we already know. Adelaide has been presented to us as desperate and, perhaps, manipulative in a passive-aggressive way. But the changes that we witness aren't grounded in either of these traits, and as a result are very hard to swallow.
Leach also gives George a Dickensian back story to match Adelaide's; this feels like a tactical mistake. In the end, instead of keeping us titilated and excited as the story gets sexier and more suspenseful, Tryst turns off the steam entirely and limps to a dull and unsatisfying conclusion.
This seems to me to be mostly the fault of the writing, by the way: Caulfield and Campbell deliver workmanlike performances, doing their utmost to make the material compelling. Director Joe Brancato manages a brisk pace in the first act, but things slacken somewhat in Act Two. Alejo Vietti's costumes and Jeff Nellis's lighting serve the piece nicely, but David Korins's massive unit set, which transforms cleverly from brick building to boardinghouse bedroom, is probably trying too hard to impress us. There is a brief moment of nudity near the end of the play (entirely unnecessary); the play's publicity photos to the contrary, it is Campbell, not Caulfield, who bares all in this gratuitous though dimly-lit scene.
Tryst wants to be a romantic thriller, I think, but Leach stops short of being either romantic enough or thrilling enough to accomplish her goal.