The tagline of Trust — ”A comedy without a safe word” — is super-clever, considering that the show dabbles in S&M play, whose participants often employ a ”safe word” that one party can shout out to stop whatever submitting or dominating is happening. In the case of Paul Weitz’s comedy, there’s no ”safe word” to stop the show’s laughs. Despite its rather corrosive themes and even a few whip-snapping scenes, Trust is a funny, crisp, and modern look at four people struggling with a wanton lust for an affected, nuanced life.
The dark comedy focuses on Harry (Zach Braff), a savvy guy who’s rich after selling off his Internet start-up for millions. But he’s disillusioned with his wealth and his wife (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist scene-stealer Ari Graynor), and so he hits up an S&M dominatrix (Sutton Foster) to make him feel something, anything at all. (Don’t worry — the show doesn’t get too kinky.) But Harry’s visit to the dark side sets off a chain of events that effectively send this already unhappy guy into a tailspin, making him further question (surprise, surprise!) life, relationships, power, and — here we circle back around to the S&M! — control. And there’s the key to the show. Honestly, Trust is all about control — it’s obsessed with it. Who controls you? Are you in control of your own life? Are you a dominator or submissive? It all seems rather heavy for a theater production to meditate on, but the accessible Trust pushes you there rather easily.
The provocative themes turn the show’s wheels, but the cast does too. The foursome (Bobby Cannavale plays Foster’s boyfriend-turned-blackmailer) mixes well, gamely playing off each other throughout. Braff comes off as surprisingly likable after his somewhat polarizing turns in Garden State and Scrubs; Foster is a vision as always, beautiful and measured; Graynor won’t sit well with every audience member, as she’s harsh, but her jilted wife snaps up a huge portion of the show’s laughs; and Cannavale comes off intense, almost a more likable (and way cuter) version of the neck-vein-popping Brad Garrett.
Trust‘s biggest issue is that it loses momentum in the second act, as the show’s novelty grows tired compared to the big bangs in the first half. Also, a possibly unintentional theme of the show — rich people with too much money feeling sad about their comfy lives — may not sit well in the current economic universe. But overall, it’s solid, provocative theater — trust me. B
(Tickets: www.2st.com or 212.246.4422)