Truman Capote is both infamous and highly imitable. His high-pitched, nasally voice and socialite, liquor-swilling swagger have been portrayed by everyone from Philip Seymour Hoffman to Brian the dog from Family Guy. And in Boise Contemporary Theater's latest one-man production Tru, Tom Ford busts out a convincing Capote.
From the first moments Ford shuffles out onto set designer Rick Martin's enviable '70s-themed stage dressed in a cardigan and bow tie, past the white retro dining table littered with unwrapped Christmas presents and over to a large bottle of Stolichnaya vodka, there's no question who we're watching. But as Capote takes phone calls from friends--peppered with a deluge of self-aggrandizing, name-dropping asides--and records a memo to his biographer recounting the various celebrities he's befriended over the years, we begin to question why we should care.
In the first act of Jay Presson Allen's Tru, set during Christmastime 1975, Capote comes off as an unrelatable ego-maniac. His larger-than-life-of-the-party charm is undermined by the fact that there is no party. When it's only Capote--breaking the fourth wall to address the audience, lamenting the loss of his friends over a gossipy article he published in Esquire and making repeated trips to the liquor cabinet--the character can be mildly insufferable.
Though Ford does bring out Capote's vulnerable side at the end of the first act, tearfully recounting stealing his grandmother's necklace, the character doesn't truly become human until the second, more sobering act. The morning after a late night at Studio 54, wearing an open, Japanese-style silk robe (high fives to costume designer Star Moxley), it's much easier to see Capote for what he is: a lonely, overweight, vulnerable man ticking away the hours in his New York high-rise on Christmas Eve. Capote has come to detest his innumerable vices and the empty socialite life that accompanies them, but all of his promises to clean-up and lose weight come off as oh-so-relatable wishful thinking.
Though Tru, which originally premiered in New York in 1989, turns out to be more gossip rag than thought-provoking character-study, under Drew Barr's direction (At Home at the Zoo, I Am My Own Wife) and Ann Price's vocal coaching, the play becomes a vehicle for Tom Ford to bring the iconic, long-deceased character to life. Flaws and all.