Writer’s Block: Palm Beach Dramaworks’ “Tru”

The holidays can be hard, especially if your wealthy friends recently ostracized you because you humiliated them in the pages of Esquire. An all too common problem if your name is Truman Capote. The notorious writer contemplates his life, his career, and the gossip he’s dished along the way in Jay Presson Allen’s play, Tru, onstage at Palm Beach Dramaworks through January 1.

Rob Donohoe stars as Truman Capote in Tru at Palm Beach Dramaworks. (Photo by Samantha Mighdoll)

A one-man dramatic portrait in two acts, Tru follows Capote (Rob Donohoe) across two days surrounding Christmas 1975. At the play’s open, Donohoe is roaring into the telephone, his laughter filling his expertly appointed New York City apartment, courtesy of scenic and lighting designer Paul Black. Once he hangs up, he flits from one activity to another, stopping at the piano to bang out a few bars of “La Vie En Rose” before moving on to the tree to hang a single ornament. This energy fades as he rehashes his recent troubles, namely the publication of a few chapters of his roman à clef, Answered Prayers, and the famous friends it offended. Between that, his alcoholism, his loneliness, and his resurrection of past demons, it’s safe to say he isn’t having the merriest of holidays.

Tru may not be as jolly as Elf or as heartwarming as Miracle on 34th Street, but what it lacks in Christmas cheer it makes up for in Tiffany & Co. blue bags under the tree. Blessed with a beautiful script, Donohoe evokes the misunderstood writer with tenderness and wit. While it isn’t your typical holiday fare, Tru is a touching take on the human experience and the nature of celebrity. Although a common fixture on the Dramaworks stage, Donohoe is unrecognizable as Capote. No way is this the same man who played the curmudgeonly patriarch in 2015’s Buried Child. In Tru, he proves himself to be a true chameleon. His performance starts out very big—almost verging on a caricature of the easily satirizable author—but he quickly discovers ways to pull back without dulling the character. Donohoe both normalizes Capote’s signature vocal affectation and humanizes his unconventional behavior. Most importantly, he makes it easy to sympathize with a troubled man who suffers from too much self-obsession and an inability to change.

If you go: Tru, Palm Beach Dramaworks, West Palm Beach, to January 1.

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