Reviewed by Nicholas Linnehan
“Deception..Intrigue…Lust. These emotions run high in Paul Grellong’s, roller-coaster of a new play Manuscript. With every twist and turn, we are kept on the edge of our seats and once the final twist is revealed we gasp for air.”
Just Kidding Production tackles this new play with enthusiasm. A simple story about three “friends” meeting for a night of simple partying, turns helter-skelter when a manuscript is discovered without its author. True natures unravel and deception, lies, and manipulation take center stage as three “amigos” hash out their plans for the document. Best friends, David and Chris meet to introduce, Chris’ new girlfriend to David. When she, Elizabeth, arrives, we learn that both David and Elizabeth are writers. Chris desperately wants the three to get along Everything is going relatively well until Chris leaves to score some “party favors”. This is when things truly get interesting and for fear of divulging too much, we must stop here. But when the tumultuous nature of the evening plays out, no one is safe and we see a thrilling play brought to life.
David, played by Cameron Clarke, is totally invested and brings a sense of realism to his character that is palpable. His commitment to the story is compelling and his performance commendable. Clarke has great chemistry with his two fellow actors. Elizabeth, played by Kimberly Nordstrom is terrific in her turn. Nordstrom can play the fox and the victim well, showing that this actor has great emotional depth and range. Her scenes with Clarke are electric and the two play off each other well. However Chris, played by Matthew Hansen, does not fair as well. He seems to be working very hard on stage and, while that doesn’t sound like a bad thing, he over-acts which makes it appear as if he’s in a farce. When he relaxes, he does fine, but unfortunately he doesn’t relax enough. As a result, he seems buffoonish and like his character doesn’t belong in this play. This hurts the overall coherency of the piece, but luckily the story is strong enough that it survives,
The play to be an intriguing work, The audience is delighted by the surprises Grellong riddles his play with. He certainly keeps us guessing. There’s a bit of murkiness on the nature of Chris’ feelings for David. Again, Again for fear of giving away too much, it was unclear whether or not Chris wanted for a deeper relationship with David and to be more than just friends.
Joseph Napolitano’s set design works well and fits the space. There’s just enough material to give us a sense of place. Paige Fridell directs this production with clarity and understanding of the piece. She has a good grasp on the story and communicates it well. The overall “feel” of the production works, making the technical aspects seem non-existent, like they should. We are never directly aware of these elements, which means that there job was done with skill. Every good piece of theater requires masterful production values, that don’t draw too much attention to themselves, but let the actors shine. We know they’re present, but only when we consciously think about it.
That withstanding, Manuscript was thoroughly enjoyable. the relationships are complex and that’s always a good thing. This is an emotionally accessible piece of theater. The audience left happy that it got the chance to experience Grellong’s work and hope that we hear more from this exciting playwright in the future!
Manuscript played at Theater Row, 410 W 42nd St. No Intermission. Running time 100 minutes. This production closed on May 16, 2015