Tryst begins as does any good chick flick; boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love and boy and girl wed and live happily ever after.
In Tryst, however, the happily ever after is over before the wedding night begins.
The aforementioned boy in this Edwardian set drama is cunning George Love, a con man who perpetually marries women to steal their inheritance, leaving them high and dry before the honeymoon comes to an end.
The girl in this setup is Adelaide Pinchin, a feeble milliner who repairs hats in the back of a tiny corner shop, the exact type that would fall into George’s trap.
George admits he could have anyone he chooses, but ultimately he settles on those with “the sort of face that belongs to the sort of woman who teaches piano or serves tea or issues library books.”
He does this because he knows those sorts of women hoard their inheritance, and are easily manipulated when it comes to love, for they have never experienced it.
This is the exact case with Adelaide who has 50 pounds and a diamond brooch to her name, the equivalence of $35,000 Canadian.
Everything is going according to George’s plan until the wedding night, when Adelaide refuses to consummate the marriage. Instead she suggests “a little game of cards,” some hot tea and bread pudding.
At this point, the play breaks off into many twists and turns, ultimately leaving the characters drowning in their choices.
Tryst, written by Liverpool-born Karoline Leach, is quite an achievement, if not a little long. The characters of George and Adelaide are ones that we’ve seen before, but the aftermath of their marriage steps into uncharted territory. Aside from the interesting plot points, Leach is also wise in letting the characters speak their thoughts out loud, as if reading a journal entry.
The biggest triumph, however, is the amount of humour that is present in this two-hour drama. This is a direct result of the stunning performances by actors Michelle Giroux as Adelaide and C. David Johnson as George. Both put on pitch perfect British accents and really delve deeply into their characters.
Giroux is a real standout, reminiscent of the great actress Emily Mortimer. Her Adelaide is slightly hunched over in posture but fully realized as a character. She emotionally transforms in front of the audience’s eyes, from the meek Adelaide Pinchin with thin hair and low self-esteem to the refined and confident Mrs. Love.
Johnson puts in a great effort; his acting is seamless throughout the performance, but he had a few hiccups in terms of actually reciting his lines. This will, no doubt, be smoothed over as the play continues its run at the Segal Center.
The set of Tryst was beautifully done, but had me scratching my head during some of the performance. Instead of using multiple sets for the different locations of the play, designer Astrid Janson used spaghetti string curtains to section off parts of the stage and translucent plastic furniture to create different locals. This worked for most of the play, but some scenes really required more than two see-through chairs (as in the scene on a park bench). The curtains, however, sometimes worked to the plays advantage, especially during final bath scene, giving an obstructed view to Adelaide undressing.
Tryst is more than the average chick flick playing at the local Cineplex. Besides for the initial set up, the play is really a tense drama dealing with complex identity issues. It’s more on par with PBS’s Masterpiece Theater than How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, but Tryst is compelling because it has elements of both.
Tryst plays at the Segal Center from now until March 29. Tickets are $22 for students and $35 to $44 for adults.