Patrick Nolan (Tim Realbuto) is a washed up former child actor, tainted by scandal, all but forgotten by Hollywood, addicted to any kind of numbing he can find, scraping by as an acting coach to teenage hopefuls.
He attends a high school staging of Romeo + Juliet starring his protégé and niece. He’s not sober and she’s not good, but Jeremiah (Nolan Gould), the young man playing Romeo, catches his eye, and Patrick reaches out to take him under his wing. Everyone knows about Patrick, or think they know, about the ‘perversion’ for which he was charged but never convicted, but Jeremiah meets with him anyway, anxious to hone his new craft.
Patrick’s technique may seem unorthodox to you and I, but he believes that all acting comes from a place of pain, and his lessons revolve around eliciting Jeremiah’s pain. It’s something they have in common, their tortured pasts, their private pain. Patrick is never sober, not even close, but he’s also never intoxicated enough to shake the memories that haunt him. Jeremiah’s is too young to know how to handle a profoundly depressed teacher, or the mentorship that transforms into something rather more intimate and intense.
Tim Realbuto is strangely at home in the skin of a man clearly on the brink of personal apocalypse, as he should be, having written and performed the play off-Broadway. Patrick is a portrait of barely suppressed rage, a hopeless heap of man who doesn’t believe in salvation. He dreams of the actress who played his mother on screen, and imagines her giving him the mothering he needed but never received. Gould’s portrayal is mature and nuanced, playing Jeremiah as slightly less innocent as he seems. Together, the two navigate a relationship that teeters on the fine line of inappropriate, Patrick’s disgrace so palpable it’s a third character in the room. Rob Margolies’ confident direction moves the story from stage to cinema seamlessly, soundly avoiding the temptation to over-produce.
The result is a slow build toward a well-earned finale, two restrained performances each deeply felt in different ways, and an ending that gnaws at the heart.