note: entire contents copyright 2010 by Sheila Barth
When you see “Tryst,” the psychological thriller currently appearing at Lowell’s Merrimack Repertory Theatre - and you should - be prepared to be riveted in your seat throughout this two-act, two-person, high-tension, fast-paced drama.
Mark Shanahan and Andrea Maulella deliver such commanding performances throughout this Alfred Hitchcock-style roller-coaster dark play, many in the audience were unwilling to move during intermission, in anticipation of the second act, which starts promptly. Both actors, who have performed in “Tryst” in other cities, are captivating in Lowell.
Michael Schweikardt’s set design, Martin Vreeland’s dramatic lighting and Johnna Doty’s sound effects intensify the play’s suspense.
Set in Edwardian London, “Tryst” is the story of handsome, rough-around-the-edges, pseudo sophisticate con man, a.k.a. George Love, who marries rich women, he tells us, then leaves them poor and alone the following day, but happy, too, because he gives them a night of romance and sexual bliss before pursuing new prey.
Hungry, with his landlady nipping at his heels for back rent, our handsome villain sets out to ensnare and enchant another victim, while describing his plans with relish. To him, it’s an easy game, like taking candy from a baby. He insists he never hurts anyone - just their pocketbooks.
Shanahan’s performance, coupled with his battery of facial expressions that ranges from narcissistically charming to comic bad boy caricature, darkly evil malevolence to psychologically wounded, is spellbinding. So, too, is Maulella, as Adelaide Pinchin, a shy, thin, spinster who works in the backroom - with five other impaired undesirables - as a seamstress at a local milliner’s shop. Adelaide inherited a coveted family brooch and 50 pounds from her aunt, who died a few months ago. When our villain spies her in the window of the shop, he zeroes in on her, figuring she’s an easy mark for his love ‘em-leave ‘em scheme. What he doesn’t count on is her gnawing fragility and family secrets that have impaired her self-image, which he bolsters and empowers with his slick know-how, even after she confronts him in the second act.
The stage explodes with the couple’s realizations and self-actualizations, then slams the audience with a shocking ending.
When Director Joe Brancato saw Karoline Leach’s compelling play performed under a different title in London’s West End in 1997, (“The Mysterious Mr. Love”), he loved the characters but disliked the interpretation he’d seen. He drove several hours to meet and discuss his ideas with Leach at her house, to with she readily agreed. This masterpiece production at Merrimack Rep is the result of their collaboration. It was performed in 2006 off-Broadway, and has also appeared in Houston, Los Angeles and Montreal.
BOX INFO: Two-act, two-person, 1-3/4 hour psychological thriller, written by Karoline Leach, directed by Joe Brancato, appearing now through Jan. 30 at Merrimack Repertory Theatre, 50 E. Merrimack St., Lowell. The performance is for mature audiences and contains brief nudity. Performances are Wednesday,Thursday, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 4,8 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m. Post-show forum with actors after the Jan. 27th, 7:30 p.m. performance. Tickets begin at $25, with discounts for seniors, students, and groups, and may be purchased online at www.MerrimackRep.org or by calling the Box Office at 978-654-4678.