Cole Porter's glib "At Long Last Love" will never sound the same to you after seeing Jay Presson Allen's Tru, a one-man show about a 51-year-old Truman Capote tormented by booze, the passing of time and loneliness. The Porter tune occupies signature moments in the two-act play, on stage at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights.
A seemingly insouciant Capote, artfully portrayed by Todd Blakesley, embraces the song only to have it haunt him by play's end. It's Christmas time in 1975; the tree is lit, and so is Capote. "Is it a cocktail, this feeling of joy? / Or is what I feel the real McCoy?" goes the eventually bittersweet lyric.
Allen's 1989 play, directed here by Derek Charles Livingston, is adapted from Capote's own words and writing. Set in a Manhattan apartment smartly designed by Matt Scott, Tru is built upon an anecdotal narrative that's catty and fun in Act 1 before turning philosophical and fearsome after intermission. If your mind wanders during the name-dropping and one-sided phone calls in the first act, the decidedly heavier second act will bring it home with a vengeance. It turns out that the debauchery-loving Capote is living in a nightmare at Christmas, and he knows he won't wake up with it all having been a dream.
Blakesley, who's also the coordinator of the adventurous San Diego International Fringe Festival, has the formidable challenge of stepping into shoes so recently filled on the big screen by Philip Seymour Hoffman (in Capote) and Toby Jones (in Infamous). Blakesley's Capote, like that of those notable predecessors, transcends simple caricature. His Capote is a tortured literary genius misunderstood by both the unwashed masses and the society-page elite with whom he cavorts; he's teetering, as he explains, between a precipice and the abyss.
Livingston's astute direction keeps the proceedings from becoming overwrought, as they nearly do in a second-act "drowning" sequence. At its best, Tru is a theater audience's living-room encounter with a singular pop-culture enigma that no mere Christmas tree can illuminate. With all the holiday fare on stage this month, Tru is a welcome alternative.
The play runs through Dec. 21. $15-$51. diversionary.org
A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Peanuts gang discovers the true meaning of Christmas. Presented by Pickwick Players, it opens Dec. 5 at Off Broadway Live in Santee. pickwickplayers.net
A Tuna Christmas: Intrigue is afoot amid the annual Christmas Yard Display Contest in Tuna, Texas. Presented by Point Loma Actors Theatre, it opens Dec. 5 at Point Loma Playhouse. pointlomaactors.com
All Circuits are Busy: A staged reading of a play described by Ion Theatre as "a world premiere tech-fantasy" by Ion company member Hannah Logan. It happens on Dec. 8 at BLKBOX Theatre in Hillcrest. Reservations are required. iontheatre.com
Do Not Go Gentle: A staged reading of a play about an elderly woman who's died but can't journey to the ever-after until things are settled with her son and granddaughter. Presented by Carlsbad Playreaders, it happens on Dec. 8 at the Carlsbad City Library. carlsbadplayreaders.org
Golden Boy: A boxer and aspiring violinist must decide whether to risk injuring his hands by competing in a prizefight. Presented by the UCSD Department of Theatre & Dance, it opens Dec. 3 in the Sheila & Hughes Potiker Theatre on campus. theatre.ucsd.edu
Gypsy: The story of stage mother Rose and her two Vaudeville-performing daughters, set to music. Presented by Visionary Musical Theatre, it opens Dec. 4 at the Visionary Performance Space in Rolando. visionarydancetheatre.org
J'oy Vey: A workshopped production of a new holiday comedy about a couple of dueling grandmas. Presented by the San Diego Center for Jewish Culture, it runs Dec. 4 and 6 at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center in La Jolla. sdcjc.org
Naughty or Nice: Circle Circle dot dot presents two collections of holiday-themed plays by local playwrights. One is for folks of all ages; one is for the adults. They open Dec. 4 at the 10th Avenue Arts Center in East Village. circle2dot2.com
Seminar: A staged reading of a play about four young writers who clash with each other and their celebrity teacher during a 10-week writing class. Presented by San Diego Actors Theatre, it happens on Dec. 8 at the Crivello Theatre in Linda Vista. sdactorstheatre.net
Woman in the Mirror, A Dancer's Journey: A one-woman, autobiographical show starring Michael Jackson impersonator Devra Gregory. Opens Dec. 4 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. devasmj.com
Spamalot: Fred is not yet dead in the musical version of the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Extended through Dec. 7 at Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com
Absurd Person Singular: The marriages of three couples are dissected in a play that's set at parties on successive Christmas Eves. Presented by Scripps Ranch Theatre, it runs through Dec. 7 at the Legler Benbough Theatre in Scripps Ranch. scrippsranchtheatre.org
Enron: A highly stylized, satirical chronicle of the scandal-driven downfall of the Houston energy company and its arrogant CEO, Jeffrey Skilling. Through Dec. 7 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando. moxietheatre.com
Honky: Race relations are examined in this play about a shoe company that sees sales to white kids soar after a black youth is murdered for his shoes. Presented by San Diego Repertory Theatre, it runs through Dec. 7 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. sdrep.org
The Hunchback of Notre Dame: A new musical adaptation of Victor Hugo's story of the not-super-attractive bell ringer Quasimodo and the enchanting gypsy Esmeralda. Through Dec. 7 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.com
Wicked: The Wizard of Oz, told from the perspective of the Wicked Witch of the West and Glenda the Good Witch. Presented by Broadway San Diego, it runs through Dec. 7 at the Civic Theatre, Downtown. broadwaysd.com
I Do, I Do, I Do: A woman is in a heap o' trouble after promising to marry three different dudes. Through Dec. 14 at PowPAC in Poway. powpac.org
Bell, Book & Candle: A witch living in 1950s Greenwich Village casts a spell on her neighbor and, in the process, risks losing her magical powers. Through Dec. 20 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.org
The 1940s Radio Hour: A little New York radio station produces a lively musical broadcast for the troops during World War II. Through Dec. 21 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.com
The Second City's Nut-Cracking Holiday Revue: The Second City sketch-comedy troupe returns to San Diego with a holiday-focused show. Through Dec. 21 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.org
Tru: This one-man play finds Truman Capote alone in his apartment with pills, booze and desserts. Through Dec. 21 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. diversionary.org
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas: A total jerk is surprised when his tiny, wretched heart grows by a factor of three. Through Dec. 27 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org
A Christmas Carol: This is Cygnet Theatre's own unique, family-friendly, musical adaptation of the holiday classic about the transformation of one Ebenezer Scrooge. Through Dec. 28 at the Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com
The Nutcracker: This is not the ballet! This is an updated musical-theater adaptation of the holiday classic, about a little girl who goes on a fantastical adventure as she grieves for her deceased brother. Through Dec. 31 at New Village Arts in Solana Beach. newvillagearts.org
Win Place or Die My Jockeys are Killing Me: Mystery Café's latest comic-caper dinner-theater production is set at the Thoroughbred Club at Upson Down Race Track. It's ongoing at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. mysterycafe.net