by David Schwimmer and Andy Bellin (based on the screenplay by Andy Bellin and Rob Festinger)
Directed by David Schwimmer and Heidi Stillman
Starring Amy J. Carle, Spencer Curnutt, Christine Mary Dunford, Keith Kupferer, Zanny Laird, Zoe Levin, Marianna Oharenko, Morocco Omari, Raymond Fox, Philip R. Smith, Dorcas Sowunmi, AllisonTorem
Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N. Michigan at Pearson, Chicago
production web site:
March 3, 2010 through May 9, 2010

Reviewed by Martha Wade Steketee
May 1, 2010

Trust is a story about cyber stalking and young innocents and the loss of innocence and over-protective dads and growing up female in a very toney Chicago suburb.  It’s a story with a few delightful performances (and we’ll get to them).  It’s a play at Lookingglass, adapted from a story originally written as a screenplay, directed on stage by the same person directing it on film.  And therein lie the issues with this production.

This story is important and timely: intelligent youths trusting ‘friends’ in chatboards, friendships growing in intensity over time, relationship moving to in-person meetings and one party in the correspondence is not who he (or she) presented themselves to be.  With consequences.  No deaths in this case, or let’s say there is death but only of innocence which comes in many forms.

The story is important, much dialogue is moving, and select plot elements are haunting.  However, I need to focus on *how* this story is told in this case on this stage.  We have a charming and nuanced and moving performances by Allison Torem as Annie, the adolescent upper class daughter, (and others including Philip R. Smith as Charlie, the cyber pal) that are overwhelmed by set conceits (a box that’s a bed that lights up from within) and projections that are relentless (pretty but relentless) and sliced and diced quick cut scene changes that leave a person sitting in a theatre seat hungry for a consistently told, well crafted, well made play.  Let us stay with Annie in her bedroom for a few minutes, let us imagine the girlfriends at school.  And can we *not* have mom mime making food at the dinner table please.

This is a production that tries to be a film on stage and for this middle-aged experienced theatre goer, the power of the cyber story which is at root a universal story of violated trust and its effects on a young person and especially on a young girl was overwhelmed by these other production values.  Rich and saturated images, well choreographed set changes, created a fine dance before me yet left me thinking: could we have told this entire story with half the scene changes and a projection only once every 10 minutes or so?  Focus us on the words and allow the actors on stage to get us there and keep us there.  As it was, design and dance worked against story and theme, keeping it all at arm’s length.

I was infuriated by the muddying of the story by design elements (flash flash flash) and by the extra scene movements. I acknowledge that after many years of reading scripts submitted to some of the country’s biggest theatres that look more and more like screenplays or even sitcom scripts, there may be a confusion of genres going on at present.  And there could be an argument that to attract people into and keep people in theatres there is a need to make the experience feel like a video game.  But please, please please no.  These stories are too important.  These performances are too fine.  These actors deserve better.  And our audiences want more.

© Martha Wade Steketee (May 14, 2010)

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