It could be a nerve-racking proposition - meeting someone new - especially if this someone is your best friend’s new girlfriend. It could also be doubly nerve-racking if said new girlfriend is an author whose work, you, a writer, happen to deeply admire. Just meeting her could mean opportunity or disaster.
As it turns out, David already knows Elizabeth, as Liz. He dated Liz in high school. Liz whose sister is also a successful writer. The Liz with whom he shared all his creative ideas. And yes, the same Liz who stole his first brilliant literary concept, reworked it with a feminine voice and used it to launch her own writing career. The Liz he pretends to not know in order to avoid breaking his best friend’s heart.
Elizabeth is enjoying the cat and mouse game. She has been scheming of a way to reconnect with David the entire four months that she and Chris have been dating. To rub salt in the wound maybe, to reconnect with David romantically maybe. However, in this particular night, she is visiting the young men the same hour that dope dealing, eccentric, uber-successful fiction writer William Alan Banks overdoses on opium and panicked driven Chris grabs the manuscript of the author’s latest work.
The author is dead. The manuscript is unfinished. And Elizabeth, after reading it, insists that the work deserves to be published and shared with the world. The newly orphaned manuscript deserves an audence... And the only way to make that happen, is if one of the writers in the room finishes it. David’s heart sinks; she wants to do it again.
At the outset, Paul Grellong’s Manuscript may not be very accessible to anyone who is not an "Literary intellectual" from New England. The repartee between the trio is fast and nervous, a bit inside for your Average Joe and even shares the same cadence for the better part of the first scene in the play. All of these elements keep the audience at a distance to a certain degree. That is, until David utters the first “F*ck You.” From that point on, this play becomes a highly universal tale about deception, ambition and loyalty.
The cast of this production is first rate. As an audience member, I found the character of Elizabeth pretty despicable; which means as an actor, Katharine Brandt executed her part brilliantly. Brandt’s depictions of Elizabeth’s duplicity and manipulation are golden. Adam Shapiro is great as the duped Jewish boy who appears to be playing out of his league. Shapiro effortlessly injects humor into this taut drama without missing any notes of the piece's prevalent somber tone. Patrick J. Adams' portrayal of Chris is a wonderful counter balance to the two strong wills he is pulled between. His character is the play’s soul and he renders the role with sensitivity and truthfulness. Adams plays the conflict so beautifully that even up to the very end, I still was not completely certain whose side he was on.
A One-Act on three scenes, this production of Manuscript does feel a bit long and starts off a bit flat, but it does heats up in due course. And the finale is certainly worth the wait.
Manuscript runs August 28th through October 3rd at:
The Elephant Theatre
6322 Santa Monica Blvd.
Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays @ 8pm
For reservations call: (323) 960-5774
Photo Credit: Victor Miles