Trust,” the story of a teenager victimized by a sexual predator she meets on the internet, is an earnest drama that carries an emotional impact along with its cautionary message. David Schwimmer co-wrote and co-directed the piece after having devoted himself to the cause of rape prevention, and while “Trust” isn’t devoid of predictability or awkwardness, the show pays meticulous attention to the emotional arcs of its leading characters, providing an authenticity of feeling that adds depth to the purpose-driven drama.
Schwimmer has already filmed the movie version of this piece, and the star power of Clive Owen and Catherine Keener assures wide distribution despite the difficulty of the topic.
It’s apparent “Trust” was initially written as a screenplay; it has a larger-than-average cast, short scenes and sprawling locations, documented in photographs projected upstage on a wall of square screens. These also serve to project texting and email conversations, and from the start, we’re enmeshed in the digital dependencies of contemporary life. This is how we discover the flirtations of 14-year-old Annie (Allison Torem) and a supposedly 16-year-old fellow soccer player she’s befriended on a teen chat forum. It all seems thoroughly innocent — even her apparently with-it parents don’t get concerned — until the correspondent begins confessing that he’s older, inching up from 16 to 20 to 25.
Torem, a young Chicago actress, is absolutely uncanny in her ability to let us into Annie’s emotional see-saw, as she’s flattered by the attention from a young man with whom she has so much in common, causing her to justify the untruths without fully dispelling her uncertainties.
After the turning point in the drama, when Annie secretly meets with her pen pal and discovers he’s even older than she thought, Torem expertly communicates the multiplicity of emotions, ranging from denial to fury at having her private life become so fully exposed.
The other major character is Annie’s father, and there’s a reason this role — clearly intended to target the story to adults — drew the likes of Owen. Here, Philip R. Smith, like Schwimmer a longtime member of the Lookingglass ensemble, captures the full emotional journey of a man who becomes obsessed not only with the crime but with how little he understood his daughter and his own feelings of responsibility.
It’s potent psychological drama; at the same time, it clearly makes its point: In an age of digital identities, universal adolescent insecurities make no modern family immune from this threat.