Sunday, November 20, 2011
TRYING, a fine history lesson woven into an interesting story
What happens when a man noted as a national and world leader faces the reality of his demise? This is the premise of Joanna McClelland Glass’s TRYING, now in production at Cesear’s Forum.
TRYING is based on the real story of Francis Biddle, the Attorney General under Franklin D. Roosevelt and Chief Judge at the Nuremberg trials which examined the evils of individual Nazis following World War II. The play was based on Glass’s own experiences as Biddle’s personal secretary from 1967 through 1968.
Biddle, is a traditional prep school, Ivy league educated conservative Republican until he presides over a case of the coal unions in Pennsylvania. He moved by the experience and does a complete about face and declares, “I’ve come to right a wrong. That’s why God invented Democrats.” From there on he championed liberal causes.
We meet Biddle as a sharply cantankerous, ailing 81-year-old, who has become fussy, overbearing and impossible to live with. He is trying to everyone he deals with. He hires and fires secretaries on a regular basis. That is, he fires the ones who make it through the first day of working for him without running out in tears. In desperation, his wife finds a 25 year-old Canadian girl, whose life has been hard and has caused her to learn not to take abuse from anyone. The duo spars as they try to learn how to communicate with each other and gain mutual respect and a binding connection.
The play was originally produced in Chicago and then moved to Off-Broadway in 2005. Both in the Windy City and New York, it starred Tony Award winner Fritz Weaver and Kati Brazda.
Glass’s writing is natural and real, not theatrical or overblown. It gives the illusion allowing the audience to of peek in on a real place, with real people, with real consequences.
The production, under the direction of Greg Cesear, is nicely textured. The performances are first rate. We watch Glenn Colerider, as Judge Biddle, take his stubborn stands, but begin to wilt as the strain of aging and illness take over his mind and body. Though there are a few line flubs here and there, this is a fine performance. Tricia Bestic is completely real as Joanna. She even has the pregnant walk down pat. Colerider and Bestic play off each other with compassionate fidelity.
Capsule Judgement: TRYING is a fine script which shares historical knowledge woven into a nicely textured story. It gets a fine production at Cesear’s Forum.