Merrimack Repertory Theatre rings in the New Year with Trying, an inspirational and tender portrait of two strong-willed people and one life-changing year. Joanna McClelland Glass has fictionalized her time spent as secretary to retired Judge Francis Biddle, Attorney General under FDR and a judge on the Nuremberg trials, into an affectionate memoir.
In this Tuesdays With Morrie-style play, we meet Sarah, a young and tough Canadian who agrees to work for the elderly, gruff Judge who is attempting to compile the vast archives of his political life into a memoir. Sarah struggles to establish her adult self-identity while Judge Biddle confronts his limitations in the twilight of his years. Known for being difficult to work with, Judge Biddle has little interest in his new assistant, Sarah, and all but resents her presence in his office. Undeterred, Sarah searches for ways to succeed in her new job through patience and understanding. Stumbling on a common interest in poetry and art, a witty banter develops between them, and Sarah slowly builds a connection with Biddle. Over time, an affectionate partnership emerges as they piece together his legacy from brittle mimeograph papers, fading memories and scraps of Dictaphone tapes. Set in the last year of Biddle's life, Trying reveals his struggle of letting go and her determination to have his life retain dignity.