I like seeing actors play against type. I like it even more when it works. Second Stage Theater’s production of Trust is, among other things, an exercise in actors playing against type. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work; but that’s not the fault of the talented cast.
Trust, written by Paul Weitz and directed by Peter DuBois, concerns the disarming and disaffected Harry, played by Zach Braff. Harry is a dot-com wunderkind in the vein of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. He has sold his internet company for over $300 million and, with nothing but time and money to burn, is nevertheless rudderless. His increasingly sour marriage to his even more directionless wife, Aleeza (played with a self-satisfied sneer by Ari Graynor), leads him into the dungeon of a dominatrix named Prudence (Sutton Foster, shedding her musical theater perk and shine), who turns out to be a former classmate of Harry’s and becomes his new obsession. Harry’s pursuit is only complicated further by Prudence’s controlling boyfriend, Morton (the intimidating Bobby Cannavale), a second-string con artist who sees opportunity when Harry lingers too long.
Trust has some interesting things to say (and it says them frankly; no “bleep” button here) about matters of control, expectation, and responsibility–as well as the titular virtue–in relationships. These ideas would be even more potent if they were presented in less time. With a meandering second act and unnecessarily long scene changes throughout, Trust is a taut ninety minute thriller trapped in a two-hour talker. Like all of its characters, it’s just a little bit full of it–and itself. This is nothing that Weitz and DuBois couldn’t have fixed upon review and in rehearsal. For one thing, more attention should have been given to Harry, who is clearly the main character of the piece. The few glimpses we get of the boy next door’s ferocious inner demons come so suddenly, forcefully, and sporadically that they’re almost out of character. If he had been fleshed out at the expense of the others (particularly shrewish Aleeza), he would have been more compelling.
That said, I was pleasantly surprised by Zach Braff. He’s comfortable on stage, and seemed to relish the opportunities he had to step out of his comfort zone. Cannavale also shows that he’s as confident on stage as he is in front of the sitcom camera. Foster might remain a musical theater darling first and foremost in theater-goer’s hearts and minds, but in her dramatic debut she proves there’s more to the package. I’ve only ever seen Graynor play characters like Aleeza previously (namely in The Little Dog Laughed), but she was good then and she’s good now.
If you’re a fan of any of those mentioned above, I’d say try for a seat at Trust before it closes. Otherwise, you’re not missing all that much.