Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

Regional Reviews by Fred Sokol

TheaterWorks of Hartford

Also see Fred's review of Homestead Crossing

Mark Shanahan and Andrea Maulella
Tryst, continuing at TheaterWorks of Hartford through September 9th, crackles and captivates from its opening moment. Director Joe Brancato worked with actors Andrea Maulella and Mark Shanahan on previous productions of Karoline Leach's taut and thrilling play. The performers remain remarkably fresh. The razor-sharp show is set in London in 1910.

Maulella plays Adelaide Pinchin (quite an appropriate name) whose profession finds her making hats in a room where she is out of public view. Psychologically repressed, she has low or no self-esteem. Her aunt gave her a lovely brooch, and Adelaide also has an inheritance and a wish to find her way to Venice. Adelaide is desperate.

George Love (Shanahan) claims to have visited much of the world. He meets Adelaide, sizes her up (so to speak), and persuades the woman to run off with him. Designer Michael Schweikardt's London street backdrop yields to a boarding house, complete with bed, for the couple.

Adelaide speaks of her troubled personal past and the two play cards. George is obviously quite the storyteller with mentions of his time as a diplomat, wealth, fluency with foreign languages, and so forth. All the while, Brancato, moving the actors around with purpose and precision, augments intensity. It escalates further as the characters, from time to time, literally step around one another. Adelaide is suddenly aware of scam-artist George's motives. Or is she?

Playwright Leach creates conflict from her first word. Initially, each actor speaks only to the audience as they individually maneuver about and circle one another before finally approaching dialogue to one another. The dramatic hook involves immediate audience inclusion: one is compelled to watch and listen. Escape is not an option. It is fair to say that, from the outset, there is temptation to guess just what, exactly, will happen. Looking for a specifically and effectively plotted play? Come to TheaterWorks and watch one executed with a neat combination of specificity and passion.

Karoline Leach is to be commended for controlling the tension and forcefully amplifying it as her two-hour play evolves. Gradually, we come to know more of George and Adelaide. Actors Shanahan and Maulella are suitably agitating during their time together on stage as well as when each is communicating directly with those observing this intriguing two hour presentation. Director Brancato varies the pacing according to exchanges within each scene. The playwright's characters are anything but linear. George appears to be the more physical of the two. Yet, Adelaide often presses her hands upon the dress she wears (one furnished by costumer Alejo Vietti). The woman detests her body.

Tryst is a power struggle as each attempts to seize advantage. The play is fraught with anxiety. Well into it, George asks, "Whose game is this?" It would be unfair to answer that question here. This is a two-hander which is filled with twists. It is not a small play and it resonates with crisp, pulsating performance. TheaterWorks affords proximity and, in this case, personal turmoil is nearby—no weak links here.

Tryst continues its run at Hartford's TheaterWorks through September 9th. For tickets, call (860) 527-7838 or visit

Photo: Lanny Nagler

Also see the current theatre schedule for Connecticut & Beyond

- Fred Sokol

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