Black Box

A graduate student directing her first play (Josephine Decker) insists on staging the supernatural young-adult novel that got her through adolescence, and the rehearsals are subtly transformed after the book’s author (Austin Pendleton), now aged and alone, arrives unexpectedly to observe. This independent drama by local writer-director Stephen Cone follows the formula of his critical favorite The Wise Kids (2011), exploring various relationships among young performers as a theatrical production is pulled together. Unfortunately the tension between Christianity and sexuality that animated the earlier movie is replaced here by a muted struggle between novelist and director over ownership of the gothic story, the plot and themes of which are rendered too obscurely to illuminate either character. Various gay romances bloom backstage, well played by the young cast and rendered with Cone’s usual sensitivity but never rising above the level of a date movie.