Trying belongs in the category of harmless plays, comforting fun for retirement-age folks, and non-painful for the rest of us. It belongs to a standard form, tracing the slow growth of a friendship between an old fogy and a young whippersnapper, in this case former attorney general Francis Biddle (Fritz Weaver) and a young Canadian writer (Kati Brazda) who becomes his secretary in the late 1960s. The over-80 Biddle, arthritic and tyrannical, is anxious to finish his memoirs. His resistant employee is struggling with her less than loving marriage.
What ensues is easily predicted and Joanna McClelland Glass’s script doesn’t help matters by shoving the historical information at us in blocklike chunks, topic by topic, like an efficient secretary checking tasks off a to-do list. Sandy Shinner’s production can’t make that sort of cement-work seem natural, though it’s handsomely convincing in all other respects. Brazda is fine, but Weaver’s presence is the show’s sole claim to distinction. Tall, imposing, able to impart equal patrician authenticity to Biddle’s crotchets and ideals, he makes you feel better about North America, though not about the current state of its playwriting.