A Review of Maxwell Caulfield in Tryst
by Tony Phillips
Whether you know him from turns in more high-minded productions like Sweet Bird of Youth and The Elephant Man or trashier parts like his gender-fucked take on Sandy in Grease II and Dynasty’s Miles Colby, one thing is certain, if you’ve made it all the way uptown for the dusty Edwardian drama Tryst, you’re probably in your seat courtesy Maxwell Caulfield.
The good news is you’ll be glad you came. The handsome decor by David Korins drops our two hands — Caulfield and his spinster bride on their haunted honeymoon — into a glistening, black-bricked set — replete with flickering gas lamps — like a Brassai photo come to life. Mousy Adelaide — played ably by Amelia Campbell — doesn’t know why Love has come to town, she’s just grateful he’s finally arrived.
The lover in question would be George Joseph Love, Adelaide’s handsome suitor who appears outside the milliner where she works to present a bouquet of flowers plucked from a nearby grave and an impromptu wedding proposal. Looking like a turn of the century, buffed-up David Bowie, Love confesses — in one of this show’s many effective asides — that when it comes to the ladies, he “likes to leave ‘em gawking.” And gawk they do. Not just Adelaide — who’s quickly rooked into power-nups requiring her checkbook “so we can have your account changed to Love” — but the audience too.
One of the first things Tryst presents is a posterior view of Caulfield’s naked torso, and this is before one even enters the theater. The show delivers on its poster’s promise in the very first scene. And fans of Caulfield — who’s graced the stage with only God as his costume designer so many times that die-hards debate house left or house right before booking tickets — will not be disappointed here. But true to this crafty narrative’s dark little heart, it’s not Caulfield who goes Full Monty in the end.
With so much of the first act devoted to our hustler in a white Henley, its Adelaide who owns the second act, shedding not only her frumpy brown, period wedding ensemble, but also her clueless routine that would have her as gas-lamped as the set. Adelaide knows the score, and is such a Cosmo girl rising she turns the tables on Love with pop psychology yet to be born. To say more would be to say too much, but Tryst — like a good British cozy — lulls its audience like a soothing cup of tea that’s turns out to be piping hot.