Toward the middle of “Trust,” this year’s Visiting Director’s Project on the Loeb Mainstage, a character analyzes the dating world. How can it be that he never gets the girl, even when he tries so hard? He paces and muses, and finally comes to this explanation: “It’s not a jungle out there. A jungle—no problem—you bring a guide, some bug spray, and a big gun. But, this is way more than a jungle. This is a mystery.”
The line gets right to the core of what makes “Trust,” directed by Scott Zigler and running through October 30, such a frustrating show to watch. The play has great ideas about love and friendships, and is willing to explore them big-heartedly on stage. But it just doesn’t have the words to say what it wants to. While well-acted and cohesively directed, “Trust” cannot overcome the hurdle of its writing.
At the center of the play’s ever-evolving relationships are Cody Brown and Becca, a couple engaged to be married. Cody (the suave Paris K. Ellsworth ’14) is a rising musician with a slick demeanor. Becca (Kelly E. Perron ’11), by contrast, is uncertain and flighty. Her discomfort with her surroundings is usually expressed by the nervous habit of running her hands through her hair. “She is clawing at the hair, nails grazing her scalp,” comments another character narrating the scene.
Around them flit a host of coarsely-drawn personas whose desires shift seemingly at random. Gretchen (Rheeqrheeq A. Chainey ’11) starts out as Becca’s wedding dressmaker, reluctantly becomes her friend, and then unexpectedly ends up her lover. Holly (the exuberant Emily B. Hyman ’13) toys with the men around her as if to prove her own understanding of their psyche. “I’m doing it. Being a little shit,” she frequently apologizes proudly. These relationships often seem forced, which is perhaps partly a product of the play’s constraints; only with such a small cast would such recently-made acquaintances become the staple of a wedding shower.
Still, strong acting enlivens even these flat characters. As Leah, a washed-up singer destroyed by the “agents and babes” of musical fame, Isabel Q. Carey ’12 is smooth and confident. It’s not hard to imagine why so many other characters are seduced by her; she carries herself with particular poise. Her occasional moments of forced perspicuity about the music industry—“They want you to be an asshole,” she says—may come across as grating, but Carey is an able actress and is not overwhelmed by the heavy language.
Ryan P. Halprin ’12 is funny as Roy, a public radio announcer who has no luck with girls. His monologue about dating frustrations is the play’s most engaging scene. As he explains his anxieties about women, he pulls out the results of a day’s nervous shoplifting—a long plastic hose, a skateboard. The sequence has a particularly sketch-like humor. “Whenever I get nervous about women, I drink any beer but Coors, and I steal,” is a joke one could imagine in a 1990s television show.
This is a sensibility that is carried throughout the play. The set, designed by Jessica X. Zuo ’13, evokes the set-up of a sitcom. A carefully-crafted bridge in the back of the stage is partly obscured by large images of buildings—the same austere apartment complexes that characterize a city comedy like “Seinfeld” or “Friends.” A couch is placed in the back, and characters occasionally sit there between scenes, as if watching the drama from the comfort of their own living room. These references are unfortunately never picked up or played upon, though. Zigler meekly leaves his characters in the vacuum of their own relationships.
The play is all the more disappointing because its ideas aren’t completely off the chart. Zigler was right when he told The Crimson last week, “It’s about a lot of things that the students are going to face after graduation.” But even the best actors can’t make platitudes like “Every kiss is a betrayal” and “I lost sight of where she began and where I stopped” carry the weight with which they are intended. It is a jungle out there, or maybe it’s just a mystery, but what’s needed isn’t bug spray and a gun—it’s subtlety.
—Staff writer Madeleine M. Schwartz can be reached at email@example.com.
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