Hollywood stars coming to Broadway continues to be a talking point in many theatrical circles, but what about the A-list theatrical talent making the rounds in and around Times Square? Sutton Foster is one of those Broadway stars that haven’t had success up on the silver screen, but when it comes to the live stage, they are top performers.
From her breakthrough turn in Thoroughly Modern Millie to showboat roles in The Drowsy Chaperone and Young Frankenstein, Foster has been topping theater marquees for most of the decade. She was the only reason to bother seeing the DreamWorks juggernaut Shrek the Musical and will be tackling a role first made famous by Ethel Merman in 1934 when she steps into the rival of Anything Goes next year.
For the moment, however, Foster is bringing her non-Hollywood A-list acting credibility to Off-Broadway’s Trust, a new comedy playing Second Stage, and co-starring Bobby Cannavale, Ari Graynor, and television star Zach Braff. The latter actor was notably absent the night I attended, giving a non-Hollywood feel to the show. Unfortunately, without Braff’s novelty casting, the production showed its true colors, a thin plot veiled by titillating scenarios and casting.
I imagine Braff turns in a capable performance when he isn’t out of the show, just as his sturdy understudy, Charles Socarides, did when I saw Trust. Imagine if a nebbish Woody Allen character, circa 1980, met a modern day Internet millionaire. With “The Social Network” headed to cinema screens soon, the idea of seeing a rich thirtysomething bored with his multi-millionaire lifestyle is nothing new. In fact, little about Trust feels new, other than seeing Foster in leather and carrying a whip.
However, while Foster’s role is unlike any she has performed, the only thing she has to stretch are her legs. There might be some promise in the idea that spurned Paul Weitz to write this four-character play, but writers like David Mamet and Neil LaBute have handled similar works with near perfection. The theatre scene isn’t wanting for a tired swear-filled sexcapade. Weitz topped out in that genre with his direction of the film “American Pie.”
Cannavale plays revolting well as Foster’s thuggish boyfriend, taken to shaking down Braff’s character for money – guess it isn’t easy being an Internet millionaire – but nothing shocks as it should. He looks like he’ll knock your block off for looking at him the wrong way, so of course, he grabs the rich kid by the neck and threatens to “bring the hammer down.” Such dialogue should be left off the stage.
On the other hand, bringing a younger, near-hipster energy to the stage is admirable, and perhaps Weitz can go back to the writing room and further craft the idea. There are plenty of young adults, some who grew up on “Scrubs,” that are dying for relevant plays. It would be best if the most touted attempts don’t disappoint as Trust does. Foster proves the only real reason to catch this play at Second Stage before it closes September 12.