Music Theatre of Connecticut

Music Theatre of Connecticut is currently presenting an entertaining and touching production of Jay Presson Allen’s play, “Tru,” focusing on the life of Truman Capote.  What really makes this show work is the terrific performance by Jeff Gurner, as the title character.  “Tru” is set in New York City the week before Christmas 1975 and it shows the aftermath of Truman Capote publishing the first chapter of a tell-all book about his celebrity friends, called “Answered Prayers,” in Esquire.  Having this piece published has resulted in many of Capote’s dearest confidantes turning their backs on him out of a sense of betrayal.  Taking place at this crucial moment in this writer’s life results in “Tru” being full of drama and also a sense of dread, as Capote waits to see if his one-time close friends will contact him for Christmas.

Director Kevin Connors has done an excellent job staging this play and the pacing is extremely well-done, with a viewer becoming wrapped up in Truman Capote’s life and how he will weather the holidays being basically alone.  Of course, without the right performer in this one-man play, “Tru” would never begin to work.  Fortunately, Jeff Gurner manages to capture the essence of Truman Capote and gives a highly animated as well as a deeply moving performance.  On scenic designer Lindsay Fuori’s lavishly decorated set of Capote’s New York apartment, this show is, by turns, funny, sad, and very involving.  Whether one chooses to go to Music Theatre of Connecticut in person to see “Tru” or to watch it as a live stream at home (which I did), this production is definitely worth seeing.

“Tru” was first presented on Broadway in 1989 with Robert Morse playing Truman Capote.  Morse went on to win the Tony Award, as well as an Emmy Award, when the play was filmed for television.  Thus, any new production of “Tru” has a long shadow cast over it to see whether this play can succeed without Robert Morse’s brilliant performance.  Music Theatre of Connecticut is very smart in not trying to replicate the Broadway production of “Tru” and, most crucially, it wisely avoids any copy of Morse’s portrayal.  Indeed, this new presentation of “Tru” is truly able to succeed because everyone involved with this show has put a new spin on the play, as well as the persona of Truman Capote, himself.

Dressed in wonderful costumes, designed by Diane Vanderkroef, Jeff Gurner makes a great impression within the first few minutes of the show.  Gurner has gotten all of the mannerisms and other characteristics of Capote exactly right, but this actor also brings something unique and special to the role that makes this production of “Tru” really stand out.  Not to give too much of the play away, but one sees Capote proceed to drink heavily, take pills, as well as some illegal drugs, make numerous phone calls as he basically waits to see who will reach out to him for Christmas.  The play has been designed in a way that Capote basically talks directly to the audience throughout, as if a theatergoer has been invited as a guest to this writer’s home.

This production of “Tru” remains interesting and enjoyable throughout its hour and forty-five minute running time (with a short intermission) basically because Truman Capote is such a fascinating person and, in Gurner’s performance, proves to be such good company.  The physical production of this show is grand, with excellent lighting design by RJ Romeo, as well as wonderful sound design by Will Atkin, and the director and his star have done such a wonderful job of bringing Capote to life, in all his glory.

Music Theatre of Connecticut’s production of “Tru” is most highly recommended and the show is so engaging that it flies by in an instant.  Jeff Gurner is triumphant in carving out his own personification of Truman Capote and, being very familiar with Robert Morse’s award-winning performance, this is very high praise indeed.  Gurner has been extremely good in so many productions at Music Theatre of Connecticut, from “Ragtime” to “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” to “Jekyll & Hyde.”  But, in “Tru,” this gifted actor emerges as a real star and one that a viewer will want to spend an evening with.  So, by all means, celebrate Christmas 1975 with Truman Capote in this production of “Tru,” for a simultaneously humorous as well as heartbreaking theatrical experience.

“Tru” runs through May 9, 2021 at Music Theatre of Connecticut at 509 Westport Avenue, Norwalk, CT.  For tickets, please visit www.musictheatreofct.com or call the box office 203-454-3883.  In addition to selling tickets to come to see the show at the theatre, one can also buy tickets to watch the show live-streamed at home.  As someone who did see “Tru” through a live-stream, I can attest that it really is just as satisfying as seeing the show in the actual theatre.

Photo: Jeff Gurner

Photo by Alex Mongillo

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