Truman Capote was brilliant. Funny. Acerbic. Mean spirited. Completely self-destructive.
And Chuck Yates brings the late author of “In Cold Blood” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” to chilling life in Invisible Theatre’s production of the Jay Presson Allen play “Tru,” which opened Wednesday.
Yates is recreating the role he first played for the Palm Springs, Calif. theater he co-founded, Coyote StageWorks. He shimmied into the skin of the man who was short, chubby, an alcoholic and, at the time the play is set, Christmas, 1975, abandoned by most of his high-brow friends thanks to a tell-all chapter of his unpublished book “Answered Prayers” published in Esquire magazine.
Yates has incorporated Capote’s fluttery hands, eccentric mannerisms, and given us a reasonable facsimile of that distinctive, high-pitched voice. It’s not hard to believe we are watching the real Capote as he paces back and forth in his highrise apartment in Manhattan’s United Nations Plaza (Susan Claassen and James Blair were masters in transforming the small IT stage into the apartment).
The play is pulled from his writings and interviews, and as the insults, one-liners, and musings about his life spill out, the tragedy of Truman Capote is revealed.
And that is this: the man had little insight — he is totally confused as to why his longtime society friends abandoned him after the Esquire article came out. After all, he changed names, although the characters were thinly disguised. And he is a writer — what did they think he would do with the stories they told him? Stories about murder, infidelity, and generally abominable behavior that only the very rich seem to get away with.
We can take two things from this play — he really had no clue why people were treating him the way they were, or he is so ashamed of his behavior that he can’t admit to himself what a huge betrayal of trust telling those stories was.
And that’s perhaps the biggest fault of “Tru” — we don’t really get to know the man beyond the soundbites and witticisms. We aren’t sure way he sabataged himself with his betrayals. We ache for him for lacking the insight to look at himself with the depth and clarity that he looked at his characters in books such as “In Cold Blood.”
Still, Yates gives such a nuanced performance that you think you kinda know who Capote was. It’s only when one leaves the theater that you realize nothing new about the man is revealed. That falls on the playwright’s shoulders.
And, frankly, Capote is a train wreck as he drinks, tries to reach out to friends who abandoned him, insults others, and is drowning in some serious self pity. It’s hard not to watch that. Or to watch Yates.