By William Wolf

TRYST (IRISH REPERTORY THEATRE)  Send This Review to a Friend

Two vibrant performers, Mark Shanahan and Andrea Maulella, make the most of their roles in Karoline Leach’s romantic thriller “Tryst,” set in Edwardian London. An ominous mood hovers over the two-hander, the latest production of the Irish Repertory Theatre, this one directed with called-for intensity by Joe Brancato. The drama is a character study involving a predator and a vulnerable mark, with the tables partially and briefly turned.

I don’t want to tell where all of this leads, although you may well have your expectations. Shanahan plays George Love, the last name being laced with irony. While he can act the role of ardent lover, he doesn’t permit himself to love anyone. He is a con artist who finds women with some money, woos them and then robs them, moving on to the next opportunity.

His prey here is Maulella as Adelaide Pinchin, a milliner who is plain and resigned to being unlikely to attract a husband. Love comes on to her like gangbusters, spewing compliments and words of endearment. He is so blatantly full of blarney that one wonders how Adelaide could be so taken in. The answer lies in her pitiful vulnerability. Her self-esteem is so low that she would like the affection to be true, and there is a dynamic quality about Love that is attractive. What would she have to lose by accepting his offer of marriage?

But Adelaide is no fool. When she finally realizes what the situation really is, she develops her own agenda as a solution. Love is frightened at the mere thought of domesticity with this emotionally hungry woman, who could really make a good companion for him and end his life of crime and rootless existence.

The emotional dance that goes on between these two lost souls is compelling, thanks to the passion in the performances. Shanahan makes a dynamic seducer and Mauletta manages to deftly combine vulnerability with a streak of inner strength. The play itself is in the tradition of other “bluebeard” tales. Its greatest asset is the author’s ability to draw two characters that first-rate actors can bring vividly to life, as occurs on this occasion. At the Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 West 22nd Street. Phone: 212-727-2737


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