By Chuck Graham, TucsonStage.com
Chuck Yates is Truman Capote in "Tru."
I always remember Truman Capote as the flamingly outrageous, perennial TV guest you watched in the 1960s because he was liable to say most anything – the more shocking the better.
Parents hated him, which was always a good thing.
But that's not the Capote personality we get to see in “Tru” at Invisible Theatre, where visiting guest artist Chuck Yates creates an off-camera Capote desperately alone in his sumptuous apartment at Manhattan's UN Plaza overlooking the East River.
Truman unplugged, you might say.
Directed by Yates' good friend Larry Raben, the actor in this one-man show creates a mincing Capote on the edge of losing it.
Facing the collapse of his career, he refuses to face anything. Always changing his focus, nervously looking some place else for help, he's desperate to get a laugh, grab for a straight line he can turn into a cutting remark, anything to prove he isn't afraid.
Historically, “Tru” begins on the evening of Dec. 23, 1975. It had been 10 years since Capote had that breakout hit with his book of journalism, “In Cold Blood” and 17 years since the charming “Breakfast at Tiffany's.” People were beginning to talk.
Would he ever write anything else worth reading? Would he ever write anything else at all?
Capote's answer, which he has been writing in secret, would be a tell-all book on all of his famous friends and cocktail acquaintances. Everything would be revealed. He would call it “Answered Prayers.”
To prime the pump, Capote had given Esquire magazine a portion of the book, which Esquire published had a few months earlier in 1975. But instead of praise, the pages created an instant storm of incensed protest from the betrayed celebrities.
Capote thought the excerpt would help revive his career. It shocked him to watch how “Answered Prayers” became the last nail in his own coffin.
It is this back story that gives depth to Yates performance. The nuances of his body language, the way his high-pitched, reedy voice kept running off to hide in a corner of his nervous laughter.
“I've been to seven parties in two days,” Capote announced early on, proudly proving his appetite for night life. Occasionally he would lift a bulky cassette recorder to his face, saving a thought, a phrase.
Capote could run through lists of notable friendships long as any lineage in the Old Testament. From New England's Kennedy family to Sharon Tate and the Manson family, Capote was connected.
“I like to talk to myself about myself,” he says in Act Two, ruminating about his life over those two days in two acts, December 23 and Christmas Eve.
For most of the play, this tortured and self-made personality is talking to the ceiling, stretching out on the couch, pacing back and forth, staring out his penthouse windows overlooking the swirling city below, where some of those same disgusted people are sitting around in well-appointed rooms muttering bitter words about Capote.
Yates takes us on this convincing journey of attempted escape, twisting and turning, darting about and giggling some more, with a talent so effortless “Tru” starts feeling like a documentary of Capote's demise.
The script written by Jay Presson Allen is taken, we are told, “from the words and works of Truman Capote.” It is Yates who adds the voice and the soul.
“Tru” continues through Sept. 13 with performances at 7:30 Wednesdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. matinees Sunday (Sept. 6), Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 12-13), at Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.
Tickets are $30, with discounts available. For details, information and online purchase, visit www.invisibletheatre.com, or call 520-882-9721.