Finally! A Play About Struggling Writers!

In the small, self-indulgent world of the written word a ‘manuscript’ is, by definition, a “book, article, or paper written by hand or with a typewriter.”  It’s unpublished, unprinted, unofficial, and unrecognized; essentially, the collective livelihood of about 90 percent of all young writers, myself included.  But there’s always that other ten percent out there, the lucky ones or the talented ones (sometimes both) that do get recognized, and go from ‘manuscript’ to just plain ‘script’.  And this is great—gives the rest of us something to shoot for.  It’s just when those select few happen to be people you know or people you used to know or maybe even used to date that things get ugly and potentially desperate.

At least that’s the way it goes in Paul Grellong’s new drama, Manuscript, which made it’s West Coast premiere at the Elephant Stageworks Theatre this past Saturday to a packed house of other young, yet-to-be-noticed Angelenos—Bill Pullman, a notable exception.  The two-hour long play, chock-full of fast-paced, wit-to-wit dialogue, focuses in on the relationship between David, an over-educated, wannabe novelist, and Elizabeth, the newly christened, literary-celebrity girlfriend of David’s best buddy, Chris.  Undertones of jealousy and overcompensation float nicely in the background of the threesome’s initial meeting, but it isn’t until Chris leaves to go visit a mysterious, J.D. Salinger-like acquaintance that the true identities and motivations of David and Elizabeth begin to surface.

It’s a tribute to the tangible charisma of the actors, especially Adam Shapiro who plays David, that the brief moments of incredulity in Grellong’s plot are still fun to watch.  At one point, David embarks on a long, lovable diatribe defending pro-wresting as the newest and most effective form of modern dance.  Director Brianna Lee Johnson smartly expands this metaphor to the entirety of the production, allowing for the characters to slowly morph into larger-than-life wrestlers, executing their blows with practiced choreography.

I suppose it is this kind of clever entertainment, after all, that can act as the ultimate equalizer—between those with a career and those with, well, just a ‘manuscript.’  I mean I sat in the same row as Bill Pullman and as far as I could tell, we both enjoyed ourselves just the same.

Paul Grellong’s Manuscript runs through October 3, on Thursdays and Fridays at 8 PM at the Elephant Stageworks Theatre.  For more information call (323) 960-5774 or visit www.plays411.com/manuscript.

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