By Matthew R. Kerns
Photo by Shelley Klimes
Amana - My favorite things about the holiday season are the surprises. Unexpected gifts, people from exotic places, and stories as rich and fresh as warm baked sugar cookies. The Old Creamery Studio Stage offered all three to me on a frigid Iowa Friday night.
Tru, an unexpected holiday tale based on the life of Truman Capote is a new kind of Christmas show. A compelling and quirky two-act monologue delivered skillfully by Jeff Haffner recants the aftermath of Capote's excommunication from the wealthy and his eternal purgatory of waiting for the phone to ring announcing his return to societal life.
Haffner's performance should be celebrated and it is worth the trip to witness his hard work in this solo event. His vocal work is stellar, having mastered the high pitched whisperings of America's favorite writer. However, his physical embodiment of Capote is stiff and forced in a myriad of moments throughout the evening.
Jackie McCall's direction is simplistic and literal. McCall's choice to transition from monologue to monologue via the evolution of accessories is clever and works well. The pace of the piece however drags and didn't always appeal to my personal aesthetics.
Nick Hodge's scenic and lighting design left me confused about the era. The vivid colors of Capote's apartment, meant to mirror his life, are a miss in this production. The bric-a-brac tossed about the space is a hit and fun to watch Haffner bring to life over the course of the evening. The backdrop, meant to be a magnificent New York City view, is uninspired, unsuccessful, and lacks any kind of theatrical magic.
Marquetta Senters’ costume design is also weak. The base costume is ill fitting and the add-on accessories throughout the two acts lack the expensive taste Capote waxes about throughout the entire piece. Senters does hit the mark with a great Elton John oversized ballooned flat cap that Haffner dons somewhere in act two. This moment took me directly back to the era of disco.
The technical team missed the mark on this production as a whole but the story and the actor playing the title role are worth the trip to the Old Creamery Studio Theatre.
Tru is a unique and stellar holiday surprise in a poorly wrapped package.
Tru runs through December 22. Thursday and Sunday shows are at 3 p.m., Friday and Saturday shows are at 7:30 p.m. Tickets and further information available here.