TRYING by Joanna McClelland Glass, directed by Marti Maraden, with Caroline Cave and Paul Soles. Presented by CanStage in association with the National Arts Centre at CanStage Berkeley Street (26 Berkeley). Runs to June 11, Monday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday 1:30 pm and Saturday 2 pm. $27-$51, stu $20, some Monday pwyc and rush seats. 416-368-3110. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Joanna McClelland Glass's trying can be just that. Its dialogue is sometimes well crafted and the performances are fine, but the story is utterly predictable.
The semi-autobiographical piece, set in 1967 Washington, DC, brings together the 81-year-old retired, cantankerous Judge Biddle (Paul Soles) and Sarah ( Caroline Cave ), the spunky 25-year-old Saskatchewan woman hired by Biddle's wife to help with his business affairs.
This is, remember, the era of steno pads and carbon paper rather than computer discs, e-mail and desktop printers, so the interaction between the pair is frequent and potentially dramatic.
But within minutes you know that while they're going to quarrel and create sparks, they'll eventually learn to appreciate each other even though she's a "prairie populist" and he's a "privileged patrician" who's particular about diction.
Glass has given each character some nice touches, such as Biddle's awareness of his approaching mortality and his secretary's poetic memories of a prairie spring, but Sarah is less fully written.
On the other hand, we get glimpses of Biddle's history; he was U.S. attorney general, a key judge at the Nuremberg trials, and divulges some unhappy personal memories. The forgetful man of today won't let anyone else adjust his office heating system and has to have the last word in every conversation.
The performances rev things up a notch. Cave, always generous with her emotions, creates a heartfelt secretary who sometimes coddles, sometimes confronts her demanding boss; she can make a tart statement simply by snatching some letters off Biddle's desk. Soles, sometimes searching for a line, reveals Biddle's physical and psychological pains as well as the man's well-hidden concern for others. But he's not helped by director Marti Maraden 's occasionally slow pacing.
Too bad they're working with a sentimental script that would do better on TV as a Hallmark Hall Of Fame presentation.