Actor Christopher Standart is one of the least predictable figures in Buffalo’s theater community.
In the past 15 months, he has played the Marquis de Sade in the Subversive Theatre Collective’s excellent production of “Marat/Sade,” a small-town radio DJ in American Repertory Theatre’s “Greater Tuna,” a town drunkard in the Irish Classical Theatre Company’s “Playboy of the Western World” and various characters in drag for Buffalo United Artists’ production of “Mommie Queerest.” He also directed a well-received production of David Mamet’s “Speed-the-Plow” at Subversive in April.
But Saturday, after an active period of theatrical hopscotch, Standart will step into a role to which his talents seem particularly suited: Truman Capote. He is starring in Buffalo United Artists’ production of “Tru,” Jay Presson Allen’s 1989 one-man play about the later years of the gifted but troubled author of “In Cold Blood” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
Standart spoke with The News about the role:
What drew you to the character of Truman Capote in the first place?
My first experience with Truman Capote was the movie “Murder by Death.” I don’t know how old I was, but I thought, ‘God, what a freakish little man that is.’ He seems to have been held back quite a bit. In that particular performance, he wasn’t exactly as out there as I think he might have wanted to be.
I had read parts of “In Cold Blood.” But it wasn’t until I had seen the two movies that came out, one of which was Philip Seymour Hoffman’s “Capote,” which I didn’t care for as much as Toby Jones’ interpretation of Truman Capote in the movie “Infamous” ... I think he really completely captured everything about this man.
What’s different about this particular play from the two recent biopics about Truman Capote?
The films were about the time he spent writing “In Cold Blood,” a very specific period in time. They don’t go any further than that. This is 20 years later, much further into his life. “In Cold Blood,” it made him, and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” made him what he is. With [the unfinished novel] “Answered Prayers,” it’s his sort of comeback. He refers to it as being his “Vanity Fair” or his “Remembrance of Things Past.” So this is going to be his final legacy.
Was this role especially daunting for you?
I thought it would be. But it actually has turned out to – certainly not be a piece of cake, by any stretch of the imagination – but it’s come a lot easier than I thought it would. Joyce [Stilson] has been a tremendously perfect director for the project. She has good insight. I think where once I was feeling very daunted by it – not to say that I’m not nervous as hell, because I am – it wasn’t something that really I felt I couldn’t do. I definitely am approaching this with a level of confidence that I think you need to put yourself in a position where you are exposing yourself for two hours, and it’s just you onstage.
What was the most difficult aspect of Truman Capote’s personality to nail down?
In the play, he’s struggling with [reaction to a recently published chapter of “Answered Prayers”] and the fact that he’s getting on, he’s an alcoholic. So there’s all these different things that play into this sort of tragic moment in his life, which is a lot different than the movie “Infamous” and the other “Capote” movie, where he’s much brighter and certainly more lively.
The difficulty here is capturing that essence of Truman Capote and keeping things light at times and making him a character that you will enjoy watching, so that it isn’t all sort of bogged down in what that tragedy is. And I think it’s like that for any person in general. You have bad things that happen in your life, but you try to find ways to get around that. And sometimes those ways are good and sometimes they’re not. Sometimes it’s alcohol; sometimes it’s laughter.