Edgy dramatic comedy Trust promises a razor-sharp look at love with a rock sensibility

click to enlarge Trust - worthy: CofC actors Amanda Lester and Michael Zemeral
  • Trust
    worthy: CofC actors Amanda Lester and Michael Zemeral

"Well, let's see, there's lesbian kissing, nudity, and foul language," says director Lyndsay Webb, when asked why festival-goers might consider seeing Trust. "I find people usually show up for those things."

Originally performed last November by Center Stage, a student-run production company at the College of Charleston, Stephen Dietz's dramatic comedy is a racy romp through the lives of its two main protagonists: Cody, an up-and-coming singer/songwriter who's currently hot on the scene, and Leah, a formerly popular musician who's getting ready to make a comeback. "Then there's Becca, Cody's fiancé, who's having her wedding dress made by Gretchen, who's Leah's old roommate," elaborates Webb. "But Gretchen stopped talking to Leah, because she fell in love with her, and then Cody sleeps with Leah, and there's really just this whole star-crossed lover thing going on, with this big web of people intersecting. It's pretty extreme."

In fact, says Webb, a theatre major at the college who graduated just last week, the setup of Trust is somewhat reminiscent of the 2005 movie (originally a play) Closer. Except instead of Jude Law, Natalie Portman, and Julia Roberts taking to the stage, the cast is made up entirely of talented CofC drama students.

"When we first performed the show back at the end of last year, I wasn't too happy with how few people got to see it," says Webb. "A lot of people were out of town, there were auditions going on, and festivals — the people who did see it loved it, but I was disappointed that we didn't reach a wider audience. So I approached Todd McNerney, the theatre department chairman at the college, and asked if we might be able to do a second run, and he said 'Hmm, funny you should mention it, I'm trying to see if we can start a student-run series for the Piccolo festival.' And so here we are."

If the music-driven Trust can be likened to Closer in its plot line and character development, it more resembles one of Cameron Crowe's recent vehicles — perhaps Almost Famous or last summer's Elizabethtown — in its mission to provide a totally rocking soundtrack. "As I was reading the script, I kept hearing songs in my head — songs that would suit each moment perfectly," says Webb. "I think every director has chosen different songs in different productions of the play, and I was glad for the creative leeway when it came to picking what to use. We have a lot of stuff by the Magnetic Fields and Liz Phair, and there's even a Sonny & Cher song in there."

While the first run of the play was executed on an incredibly slim budget of $120 — "that's all we had left after buying the rights!" laughs Webb — being featured in the Piccolo Spoleto Festival does mean a slightly larger stipend this time around. "We'll be buying more props, spending a little more money on the set," she says. "There are a lot of scene changes in the play, and I've heard of performances that have been done where there's a hydraulic set, and the scenes just pop up out of the floor. Unfortunately, that's not really going to happen for us," she laughs. "Instead, we have a great stage crew running in between scenes and rearranging stuff, which actually works pretty well; because the play is rock 'n' roll-themed, it's almost like having a bunch of roadies come in during a concert."

Dietz certainly knows how to add shock value into his works; that much is apparent from Trust. As well as onstage nudity, smoking, cussing, and same-sex kissing, "there's a whole lot of glass breaking," says Webb. "In fact, one major scene involves one of the characters breaking five drinking glasses into a trash can. When we were performing the show in November, we were using real glasses we'd picked up in thrift stores, so we never really had the same glasses twice. One night, one of the glasses bounced out of the trash can and shattered all over the floor. The rest of the scene was pretty tense, because the actress was walking around barefoot. Every time she moved, you could hear this collective gasp from the audience."

The beauty of Trust, says Webb, is that "it appeals to everyone's baser instincts. Even if you think you don't want to see a lot of people behaving badly, there's still that morbid curiosity there. The writing is very conversational, very colloquial, and there's never a dull moment."

And though the lesbian kissing, nudity, and foul language are obviously incentive enough, is there any other reason would-be audiences should buy a ticket to Trust? "Well, it's the kind of play that will appeal to people who aren't really regular theatre-goers," says Webb. "Plus, it's just a chance to see some genuinely good acting done by the younger set."

TRUST • Piccolo Spoleto's Stelle Di Domani Series • $15, $12 seniors/students • May 26, 29, 31, June 3, 6, 8, 10 at 8:30 p.m.; May 27, 28, June 1, 2, 4, 7, 9 at 5:30 p.m. • 2 hours 15 min • Theatre 220, Simons Center, 54 St. Philip St. • 554-6060


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