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New Jersey by Bob Rendell

Manuscript: Literate Comic Suspenser

Also see Bob's reviews of The Last Fall and Yankee Tavern

Manuscript
Sean McIntyre, Rebecca Moore, and Daniel Pietruszka
The setting is a bedroom in a modest brownstone in Brooklyn Heights. Here, long time friends David and Chris, and the latter's fiancée Elizabeth, three adolescent Ivy League students on Christmas break, come into possession of the only manuscript for a novel by a noted author who has just died. The three hatch a plot to plagiarize the novel (Chris and Elizabeth are both authors). What ensues is twisty and powerful. Whether or not you are able to figure out the road which author Paul Grellong is taking us down before the dénouement, you will have a very good time if you decide to go along for the ride.

To me, this is an Ivy League play. David attends Harvard and Chris and Elizabeth attend Yale, so prepare for de rigueur Harvard/Boston vs. Yale/New Haven jokes. More than that, we are among snobbish Ivy League intellectuals:

Elizabeth (to David): I'm sure your writing is excellent. Chris has assured me that he doesn't have one mediocre friend.

David: That kind of thing is important.

Elizabeth: Are you kidding? It's like checklist item one for a new relationship ...

Author Paul Grellong, who studied playwriting at Brown, captures attitudes and styles of expression which are common among the Ivy League archetypes depicted, and yet are particular to David, Chris and Elizabeth and their situation. David is an urban middle class Jew who is secure in his belief that his intellectual abilities will earn him a place among society's elite; Chris is the legacy student who has received more money and indulgence than TLC from his parents; and the manipulative Elizabeth affects the facade of the older than her years sophisticate. While there is more than enough detail here for characters in any melodrama, the young ensemble of Daniel Pietruszka (David), Sean McIntyre (Chris), and Robin Moore (Elizabeth) render their characters fully three dimensional with the verisimilitude and detail of their performances. Moore gets more big moments than her on stage colleagues (and makes the most of them), but it is the integrated ensemble performance which makes this production sizzle. For this, director Mark Spina deserves unstinting praise.

In the course of watching Manuscript, the plot seems overly twisty and too dependent on improbabilities. However, when all is revealed, there are logical explanations for it all and such reservations are proven baseless. A review of the script reveals that in his setup, Grellong plays fair in his misdirection of his audience. N.B.: There is a bit of strong language here along with other elements which you may find makes this play unsuitable for pre-adolescents. If Manuscript were rated by the MPAA, it would likely be a PG-13.

Manuscript continues performances (Thurs., Fri., Sat. 8 pm; Sun. 3pm through May 2, 2010 at The Theater Project at Union County College, 1033 Springfield Avenue, Cranford, NJ 07016. Box Office: 908-659-5189; on-line: www.thetheaterproject.org.

Manuscript by Paul Grellong; directed by Mark Spina

Cast
David....................Daniel Pietruszka
Chris.........................Sean McIntyre
Elizabeth.................Rebecca Moore


Photo: Courtesy of The Theatre Project


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- Bob Rendell



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