Trust: Some of What Glitters

Local Arts Reviews

Exhibitionism

Trust: Some of What Glitters

Element,

through October 6

Running Time: 2 hrs

This show takes place in a nightclub.

I don't mean that the story is set in a nightclub -- although it is set in one, too, at times -- I mean that the venue of performance for this Steven Dietz play about love and betrayal among a group of people attempting to connect within the emotional battle zone created by the intersection of youth culture and the music biz ... I mean that the venue itself is a nightclub.

The place is called Element. It's downtown, Fifth and Lavaca. Big and darkly flashy, like a giant, hollowed-out piece of obsidian inset with bits of cubic zirconium, with a sound system that could appropriately herald Ragnarok and a programmable array of Serious Lighting Instruments that looks like the belly of a descending mothership from the planet Disco Extremo. There's a full bar just aching to slake your thirst for high-end potables, and the joint is crawling with snazzily garbed personnel ready to assist you in fulfilling (legally, one assumes) the parameters of whatever debauchery you might choose. And now there's a theatrical production here, and it's a pretty damned good show. Brought to you by the Seven Ages Theatre Company and directed by its artistic director, Michael Landman, better known for working with things Shakespearean.

Landman, new to Austin, had little idea of where he was going to mount the play. But after the usual places failed to pan out, he queried the owners of Element, what the hell, and he struck gold.

Trust is like a thoroughly modern version of those Noel Coward constructs in which the affluent and their hangers-on loll about having affairs and lobbing endless volleys of bon mots. That the mots are so often so surgically bon in this show detracts from the sense of ragged realism I'd prefer -- but it didn't stop me from repeating a few of those gems to friends the next day. (It also led me to suspect that "Dietz" is Old High German for "brevity.")

Fortunately, the parts of Trust that move away from those pyrotechnics of wit are parts that work well in establishing a less shallow humanity for the characters: for Leah (Jo Beth Henderson), who's a washed-up rock star; for Gretchen (Meredith O'Brien), who's her estranged best friend; for Becca (Kelly Stanley), who's getting married to Cody (Cole Wimpee), who's a flavor-of-the-moment pop phenom who's not averse to fucking Leah -- one of his musical influences -- who is lusted after by starstruck Holly (Camille Chen), who is yearned for by Roy (Michael Mason), a public radio announcer who is looking to hook up with anyone female.

You see how it all goes 'round? Well, it goes 'round like that in a smooth, brisk fashion, in a series of titled vignettes and monologues that the actors pull off convincingly. You can believe this troupe as these surface-pretty people, playing out the story that Dietz has studded with more than just wit: with incisive social observations and personality hooks that smack as too authentic to be mere gimmicks. And the show's opening and the scene transitions, the stylized rearrangements of the minimal multiuse props, the way the actors move across the various levels of stage, will have you wondering if Landman (abetted by choreographer Andrea Heaberlin) has been responsible for a Top 10 dance video or two.

Finally, you may also wonder if Michael Mason, who plays Roy, will autograph your cocktail napkin. Because, judging from his inspired comic monologue at the show's center, and his deftly endearing character study throughout -- sort of like Seinfeld's Kramer as coached by Chico Marx -- this man's gonna wind up near the top of wherever he chooses to go in the entertainment world.

Trust me.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Trust, Steven Dietz, Element, Seven Ages Theatre Company, Michael Landman, Jo Beth Henderson, Meredith O'Brien, Kelly Stanley, Cole Wimpee, Camille Chen, Michael Mason, Andrea Heaberlin

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