George Love has never met a woman he couldn’t seduce, wed, fleece, and abandon (all in short order), and he has never met a woman more ripe for seduction than Adelaide Pinchin. It’s no wonder, therefore, that this master of the romantic con makes the plump, plain, downright pathetic London seamstress his latest target in Karoline Leach’s Edwardian thriller Tryst, now making a welcome return to L.A. area stages at San Pedro’s Little Fish Theatre.

It takes but a moment for George (Bill Wolski) to size Adelaide (Margaret Schugt) up and realize she’s just waiting to be taken for all she’s worth. Her frumpy skirt and blouse are those of a woman who’s probably never had a date in her life, and the diamond brooch she sports provides evidence of a nest egg left by some maiden aunt or other. As for Adelaide, her mother may well have advised her never to speak to strangers, but dear old Mama had probably never met as skilled a pickup artist as George. It takes the expert conman mere minutes to plant seeds of desire in the lonely spinster, their “accidental” meeting the following day leading to a romantic dinner, a marriage proposal, and a casual suggestion that Adelaide bring her bankbook on their honeymoon “so we can have your account changed to Love, Mrs. Love-to-be.”

Were Adelaide anything like any of the previous Mrs. Loves, George would doubtless soon be taking the money and running towards his next lovelorn victim. There’s something about Adelaide, however, that gives George pause to reconsider his next move. Could it be that this pitiful spinster has touched the professional con artist’s long frozen heart? Could George Love finally have met his match in Adelaide Pinchin?

Tryst’s 2007 West Coast Premiere at the Black Dahlia won nominations and awards galore for its two stars, and if there’s any justice in the L.A. theater world, lightning could well strike twice for Wolski and Schugt. George and Adelaide are roles that any actor would kill to play, and under Holly Baker-Kreiswirth’s skillful direction, the two Little Fish company members are murderously good as con man and prey.

Wolski gets the proverbial role of a lifetime as Geroge, or should that be roles? There’s the Cockney-accented flimflammer who refers to his targets as “it” and stalks them with razor-sharp aim. Then there’s the oh-so-proper pseudo-sophisticate who “translates” the French inscription in Adelaide’s brooch as he invents story after story of his days in the British diplomatic service. Then, as George finds himself unexpectedly taken by Adelaide’s sincerity and pluck, Wolski keeps you guessing as to what’s really going on inside this lifelong trickster’s head—all the way to the doozy of a grand finale playwright Leach has up her sleeve.

Schught is every bit as terrific as her costar—and then some, first as a woman so ripe for the picking that you can almost feel yourself empathizing with George as he takes aim for the kill, then winning (and nearly breaking) your heart with Adelaide’s scarred soul, and finally astonishing you with victim-turned-warrior’s unsinkability. This is triumphant work from a gifted actress in a gift of a role.

Though Little Fish’s scenic design can’t match the Black Dahlia’s (which permitted the actual staging of the play’s final monolog to particularly powerful effect), Alexandra Dunn’s set does a more than competent job of creating the play’s numerous locales, aided by Christopher Singleton’s excellent lighting. Brandy Jacobs’ costumes match the characters and period to perfection…until Adelaide removes her Velcroed (!!!) skirt only inches from some audience members. Tryst is co-produced by Frank Pepito and Marisa Roemer. Dori Martinek is stage manager, Hannah Kreiswirth assistant stage manager, and Aileen Kamoshita light and sound board tech.

Tryst provides further evidence of Little Fish Theatre’s status as an under-the-radar L.A. theater gem, and though San Pedro may seem a tad off the beaten path, a drive down to the end of the Harbor Freeway isn’t nearly as distant as it seems. Add to that Tryst’s Wednesday-Thursday midweek performance schedule, and you’ve got a production almost as hard to resist as one of George Love’s many marriage proposals … and you know how irresistible those are!

Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St. San Pedro.

–Steven Stanley
August 10, 2011

Comments are closed.