Every kiss is a betrayal

Trust

By Steven Dietz
Directed by James Reynolds
Legend Productions
The Shurin Theater
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by David Mackler

Playwright Steven Dietz uses a rather literary device in his play Trust - most scenes are introduced by one or another of the characters' announcing "Title" and then giving a pithy insinuation of what is about to happen. Delivered like this, the technique doesn't act (as probably intended) like chapter headings, nor is it like intertitles in a film. These "titles" don't give anything away plot-wise, but they do come across as an unnecessary affectation.

Which is a shame because the characters presented are, for the most part, an interesting bunch, and they are caught up in recognizable dilemmas. Becca (Hope Jackson) is engaged to Cody (Joseph Brocato), a currently hot musician. While they seem unsuited to each other, they generate plenty of heat. Gretchen (Heather Aldridge) has been burned in past relationships and now treads very lightly when she is interested in someone. Leah (Liz Lalumia), a musician past her prime, has no illusions left yet acts in ways that are simultaneously wise and foolish. Holly (Emily Grace) is, well, she can be a bitch, but she does manage to recognize it every now and again. Roy (Derek Michalak), infatuated with Holly, expects (and is usually granted) nothing, but he keeps on keeping on.

Not a bad bunch of characters, but the playwright keeps getting in their way. Director James Reynolds staged the play as a series of individual scenes but didn't create a cohesive whole. Many scenes are excellent by themselves - Gretchen, a dress designer, fitting Becca for her wedding dress; Cody shaving Becca's legs; Roy speaking of his attraction to Holly; the women at a bar trading stories and advice. But while the play doesn't build, the performances were strong, and in some cases downright excellent.

Particularly effective was Hope Jackson's Becca, flirtatious without too much malice, but when she's hurt, watch out. Her confrontation with Cody was real, frightening, and funny, and begged for her to be seen in classics - as Hedda perhaps, or Nora. Heather Aldridge's Gretchen started off a little shaky, but she warmed up wonderfully. Holly, a shallow twentysomething, could easily have been a caricature, but Grace kept her human and surprisingly funny; Michalak was terrifically comic as he delivered a monologue about insecurity, women, and shoplifting. Brocato and Lalumia had a harder time of it as the hot and washed-up musicians, since their characters were not terribly believable, but their needs and flaws were clear.

The set (by Elizabeth Wunsch) was a colorful melange of abstract styles on the otherwise black walls, floors, screens, and movable platforms. The costumes (uncredited), from Becca's wedding dress to Leah's rock 'n' roll gear, were exactly right for the characters. Lighting effects (by Amy Fowler) were likewise right for scenes as different as a bar and a park, and the seemingly continuous songs played under the action were never obtrusive and always appropriate (sound uncredited).

As for the play, maybe its most important lesson is that when you are approaching a woman who is sitting at a bar with a friend, sit next to the friend - it keeps your sight lines open. If, as Cody's lyric has it, every kiss is a betrayal, and if trust isn't all it's cracked up to be, then pay attention to how you stage-manage your life.

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