Fond Memories 

Capote’s barbs need sharper edges.

A one-man show about a distinctive public figure is tricky business. Push the impersonation too far and the performance turns into caricature. However, Capote is also a person that many of us remember from talk shows, so it’s also risky to deviate too far from the flamboyant figure we remember. Though Kirk Morton, in makeup and costume, certainly looks like Capote, he has trouble bringing him to life onstage.

With more performances, Morton will undoubtedly create a more nuanced character. But on opening night, he rushed through his lines and never found a steady angle of attack into the character. He doesn’t imitate Capote’s unique voice except for one line. That’s a fair choice because it tells us that the public figure wasn’t necessarily the private man. But the real problem is the warmth that he gives to Capote from the start. His barbs, though humorous, have few sharp edges. Morton and director Ted Boelt could have reserved the gentleness of Capote’s character for the end of the play when it would have been more effective.

Jay Presson Allen’s script dutifully describes Capote’s vices: pills, alcohol and runaway egotism. Curiously, she steps around one of the more tragic aspects of Capote’s life: the decline of his writing career. Here was a man known for the clarity and craftsmanship of his prose. Yet by the 1970’s, he was reduced to cannibalizing the sordid details of his friends’ lives for his long-delayed “masterpiece.” At one point, he painfully mentions that a lover has stolen diaries that he intended to use as background material for the novel. It’s the only indication of the private torture Capote must have endured about his writing.

Jason Winebarger’s set is a model of scrupulous detail. We discover much about Capote’s fussiness in the mulberry color scheme, Edwardian settee, Victorian chairs and numerous objects scattered throughout the set. The 1970s era costumes are also effective. At the end of each act, Morton puts on a familiar-looking coat, hat and scarf. For a moment, you’ll almost believe the ghost of Capote has appeared.

This show is clearly a labor of love for actor and crew. The attention to detail is evident in every aspect of the production. But with less love and more coldblooded thought about the dramatic possibilities of the character, they might have created a more compelling show. In a way, there’s more than an echo of Dill Harris here, as Capote’s boyish heart dilutes his venom. S

” continues through Dec. 6 at Fieldens Cabaret Theatre, 2033 W. Broad St. Tickets cost $12-$14, call 346-8113.


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