by Clark Groome
“According to Goldman” is more evidence, if more evidence is needed, that Philadelphia playwright Bruce Graham is an actor’s writer. In “Goldman,” as in all his other plays, Graham has a superb ear for dialogue.
“According to Goldman” is playing at Ambler’s Act II Playhouse through Oct. 11.
Gavin Miller (the delicious Tony Braithwaite) is teaching a screen-writing course after many years writing in Hollywood, where he was a financial but not an artistic success.
Into his class comes a devoted movie fan named Jeremiah Collins (the impressive and complex Luke Brahdt), a religious studies major whose life story puts the lie to Miller’s first rule of screen writing — that no one’s individual story is really interesting enough to pay $12 for.
As the relationship between the two develops, it becomes clear that Miller is a dried husk of a writer who wants to regain the reputation he thought he had when he was back in La La Land.
Miller’s long-suffering wife Melanie (the spot-on Susan Riley Stevens) is delighted that they are no longer part of the Hollywood scene. She gave his career 24 years of her life and now wants some time on her terms.
Jeremiah writes a play based on his life that his teacher offers to help with and use his Hollywood contacts to get produced. It’s clear that they are not being completely honest with each other.
Graham’s play is not completely successful. Its various plot lines — the teacher/student relationship; Gavin’s conflicted career choices; Gavin and Melanie’s relationship; and Jeremiah’s struggles with his past and his desires to be a successful screenwriter — sometimes jump around in ways that are either confusing or contrived.
For the most part, however, thanks to director David Bradley’s superb production and the three knock-out performances, “According to Goldman” is almost always funny, often quite moving and more than satisfying.
The Goldman of the title is screenwriter William Goldman, who famously said that in Hollywood (and maybe in life generally) “Nobody knows anything.”
What’s clear in Ambler is that as the three characters interact, they and we learn a lot about Hollywood and about relationships, even those that aren’t fully formed or fully honest.
For tickets call 215-654-0200 or visit www.act2.org