Friday, August 13, 2010


Trust, at the 2nd Stage Theatre off-Broadway.
Gratuitous Violins rating: ** out of ****

The description on the 2nd Stage Web site says Trust "explores the corrosive effect of power on relationships."

Actually, Power would be a better title. Paul Weitz' play deals with what happens when one person has the upper hand and how that can change depending on the circumstances, sometimes in the blink of an eye.

Weitz is best known for working with his brother Chris as a director and screenwriter (About a Boy, American Pie). But he's also a playwright and he's penned a quirky dark comedy about two couples in failing relationships whose lives intersect.

What drew me to Trust was the cast, notably Zach Braff and Bobby Cannavale, two actors whose films I've enjoyed - Braff in Garden State and Cannavale in The Station Agent.

Braff plays Harry, an Internet millionaire who sold his company before the bust and spends his days giving money away through his charitable foundation. He's sweet, funny, a little neurotic, not all that happy with his life.

On a whim, Harry visits a dominatrix. She turns out to be his former high school classmate Prudence, a no-nonsense Sutton Foster. If you only know Foster from musical comedy, it's almost worth it just to see her in a very different role.

Ari Graynor as Harry's wife, Aleeza, and Cannavale as Morton, Prudence's boyfriend, do a good job with unsympathetic characters. Aleeza, a painter who's stopped painting, struck me as a whiny and grating. Morton is a brilliant but hot-tempered tough guy who never realized his potential.

The problem is, there's not much depth to Trust. The characters were so broadly drawn, it was hard to feel much of anything for them or their problems. And while the play has its humorous moments, in the end it seemed slight and inconsequential.

I did enjoy the opening scene, with Foster in her skimpy black getup, all the tools of her trade laid out on a metal cart, and Braff as her nervous customer. The interaction between the two of them was pretty funny.

Besides shocking us with the dominatrix angle and a plot twist or two, I'm not sure of the point that Weitz was trying to make. Sometimes I think contemporary drama can be like modern art - I enjoy looking at it but the deeper meaning escapes me.

Still, I don't regret seeing Trust. It's always interesting to take in a new play. And to be fair, I saw an early preview. Perhaps this one simply was too weird for me.

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