Things are not as they appear in “Tryst,” playing through June 8 at Palm Beach Dramaworks.
But that is the point.
The two-character drama starts with the air of a clutch-the-pearls thriller. You can’t be blamed for settling in for what assuredly will be a convoluted, Rube Goldberg-type plot. You can almost imagine what Guy Ritchie could do with the script by Karoline Leach.
But then, “Tryst” turns into something else, something not as sexy, stylistic and safe, but dark, dank and dangerous.
George Love (Jim Ballard) is a serial bigamist in Edwardian London. He weds and beds lonely women and then takes off with their life savings.
Oleaginous and oozing contempt, he explains his method: “It’s the face you’re looking for. The sort of face that belongs to the sort of woman who teaches piano or serves tea or issues library books. Only that’s not all you’re looking for. You’re looking for the little inconsistency. The little something too expensive, too new, too nice for that face. The something that tells you it’s got a nice little nest egg. A few quid stashed away.’’
He finds a mark in Adelaide Pinchin (Claire Brownell), a seemingly simple, youngish woman who works in the back room of a millinery shop, never the front, where the customers might see her. After all, as Adelaide tells us about herself and her back room co-workers, “We all got something wrong with us.”
That is just the kind of mindset George seeks. He moves quickly and precisely, tucking Adelaide under his arm for a quickie marriage. He swipes roses from a cemetery to woo her. She flutters and notes that he looks at her and listens to her, “As if I were interesting.”
But in asides to the audience, he refers to Adelaide (and indeed all his victims) as “it,” revealing the sociopath behind the handsome and charming facade.
The action slides from the city to the seaside where the couple honeymoon and this is where the play’s twists and turns really get cranked, but not in a “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” kind of way. “Tryst” is really a psycho-sexual character study. It’s hard to reveal much more without earning the spoiler-ire of potential attendees, so we will have to leave it at this: You might think that the shocker of an ending seems out of joint…that is until you play the last two hours (with a 15-minute intermission) back in your mind later on.
Also keep in mind that Leach based her suspense tale, in part, on real-life do-no-gooder George Joseph Smith, a notorious con man in London who lived during the turn of the 19th century and went by the alias Oliver George Love.
Then, the ending will make perfect sense.
IF YOU GO:
Where: The Don and Ann Brown Theatre, 201 Clematis St., West Palm Beach
Cost: $60 ($10 for students)
Contact: 561-514-4042 or PalmBeachDramaworks.org.