Compelling “Tryst”

By Alidor Aucoin on March 19, 2009

British playwright Karoline Leach’s unsettling romance, Tryst, running at the Segal Centre for the Performing Arts until March 29 is a compelling , heartbreakingly  superb evening of theatre.  It’s the story of a Edwardian gigolo, a charming rake with the rather suspect name of George Love (C. David Johnson).  Mr. Love is the sort of smooth talker who steals roses from the cemetery to give to the lonely women he’s about to swindle.  He is, he tells us  “a careful person. Organised. I know what I’m after, I know what I want. And I get it. I live on my wits.  And my charm.  And I do quite nicely.” And he does.  His latest conquest is Adelaide Pinchin, (Michelle Giroux) a prim, sexually repressed hat-maker with “the sort of face that belongs to a woman who teaches piano, or serves tea, or issues library books.”  Adelaide has inherited a small fortune, about $35,000 and a rather expensive brooch from her late aunt. Love sets out to woo her, marry her, then take her money and run.  But the unexpected feelings he develops as he attempts to seduce Adelaide throw a wrench into the scam and threaten to undermine the devious way he makes a living.  And her willingness to let Mr. Love take advantage of her once she knows what he’s up to, complicates the plot. The play turns on unexpected psychological complexities. From the moment Johnson opens his mouth, we sense the evil beneath the charm; he is brilliant at blending humour with emotional cruelty.  Giroux is especially touching and creates an indelible portrait as the lovelorn hat-maker yearning for affection at any cost. This is flawless acting, a cat and mouse game, at its best.   Diana Leblanc has directed with sublime nuance and a mix of menace. Sherri Catt and Astrid Janson have designed an abstract set of beaded walls and a few pieces of furniture evocatively lit by Luc Prairie.  Tryst is a riveting evening that blurs the lines between love and hate, romance and desperation all the way to the bitter end. This season, with each of its productions, the Segal goes from strength to strength.


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