We open on Trevor Daniels, movie star. He’s doing movie star things — working out, signing autographs, driving a convertible along the Malibu coast, playing a game with Jimmy Fallon. After the game, Fallon mentions something about his “upcoming stage debut, in Macbeth.”
In a shitty basement gym somewhere in New York, Meg Weir, stage actress, watches the Fallon segment while she runs on the elliptical. She makes a face and finishes her workout. We follow her home, through the dingiest parts of New York — she gets catcalled, a bag lady accosts her on the subway, there’s a cockroach in her postage-stamp studio apartment. She takes a shower and sits down on her bed and opens a script. It’s Macbeth.
The next morning she’s woken up by a call from her agent, who excitedly asks if she saw Daniels promoting the play. Meg’s annoyed — she’s clawed her way through audition after audition and bit part after bit part to play Lady M, and now her Macbeth is an action figure. Her agent reasonably points out that Daniels will drive ticket sales. Meg isn’t placated. The agent gets down to business — a promotional photo shoot has been scheduled before the first rehearsal.
Daniels is on the plane from LA to New York. A fan sits down next to him. She begins rhapsodizing on his latest movie — a “Fifty Shades of Grey” type flick. Daniels is polite but clearly doesn’t want to talk about it. He tries to bring up Macbeth, but the fan only wants to talk about the movie. Daniels gives up and pretends to go to sleep. The plane is delayed on the tarmac at JFK, and the fan picks the conversation right back up.
He finally makes it off the plane and hurries to the photo shoot. He’s late. Meg’s been waiting for an hour. He introduces himself. Meg is frosty. He tries to make a joke about the fan on the flight, but Meg takes it the wrong way. The shoot begins and things just get worse. The producer shows up and decides that they should really just focus on Daniels.
After the shoot Daniels tells Meg that they got off on the wrong foot, and invites her out for a drink to try again. She reluctantly agrees. They get to the bar and it comes out that Daniels doesn’t actually drink alcohol — he’s trying to stay in superhero shape. He tells her that he’s in talks for a “big” superhero film. It’s why he’s doing a play — the producers are concerned that he’s not going to be able to act in front of a green screen. He says American actors are being edged out by classically trained Brits. This makes Meg even more hostile — he’s confirmed her worst fears about him. She accuses him of “using” the production. He tries to order a kale salad, and it’s the last straw. Meg leaves.
On the street, she calls her gay best friend, Jeff. He’s the stage manager of the production — we actually met him at the photo shoot. She says she needs a drink. He says he thought she just got one with “Dreamy McDreamerson.” She says she needs a drink. He meets her at another bar, and she vents about Daniels. Jeff makes a comment about how good he looks naked. Meg asks how he knows. Jeff is shocked — hasn’t she seen his movies? Meg hasn’t, and declares that she never will. Jeff says she should — Daniels is actually pretty good. Meg says they’ll see about that at the first read through.
We cut to the fist read through. The director, Cat Sweeten, is smart, passionate, and pretentious. She gives an opening address about the significance of the play, and extends such a warm welcome to both Meg and Daniels that she seems insincere. She talks about the sexual dynamism of the lead characters, and how this production is going to be dripping sex. Jeff winks at Meg, who rolls her eyes.
They begin to read. Daniels asks a fairly reasonable question, and Meg lays into him for being out of his depth and not understanding the play. Jeff calls time. Daniels storms out. Meg is self-righteous. The other actors look at each other awkwardly. Cat, a little too chipper, tells everyone to “take ten.”
On the street, Daniels calls Alice, his agent, and declares that he’s quitting the play. We cut to Alice, in giant sunglasses, on the beach in Santa Monica. She tells him that he’s not quitting the play. He tells her he is. She takes a long drag on her frappuccino and says that she’s on her way. She hangs up. We stay with her and see her order a Lyft on her phone — destination, LAX.
Seven hours later there’s a knock at Daniels’ hotel room door. He opens it to find Alice, still dressed for the beach, holding her phone, an empty frappuccino cup, a super hero comic book, and nothing else. Before he can say anything she barges in and begins to lecture him on all the reasons he agreed to do the play in the first place. They continue the conversation as we cut to swanky Fifth Avenue stores where Alice buys a Manhattan-appropriate wardrobe. She says that it’s a limited run — he can make it through. He agrees to stay on.
We cut to rehearsal. The play’s on its feet now. They begin rehearsing Act I Scene V — the first time Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are together. Cat gushes about how sexy the scene is. Meg and Daniels begin playing it. It’s the least sexy thing in the world. Daniels keeps stopping to asks questions. Meg keeps yelling at him. He snaps back. It’s a disaster. Cat dries to direct them toward some sort of physical chemistry. She tells them to put down their scripts and guides them through a movement exercise. It’s super weird, and Cat takes it super seriously. Alice and Jeff watch, askance. In a particularly compromising position, Daniels begins to laugh. Cat yells at him. Then Meg starts to laugh, too. Cat throws a fit and storms out of the room. Daniels and Meg briefly forget to hate each other. Jeff calls a ten.
Another rehearsal. Things are rocky again. They begin playing Act I Scene VII, the scene in which Lady Macbeth bolsters Macbeth’s resolve to kill Duncan. It’s also, incidentally, the scene that Daniel asked the question about at the table read that led to Meg biting his head off — so he’s nervous and bitchy. They’re both off book now, and the scene depends on quick cues — but they keep dropping the cues. They become angrier and angrier. This time, though, Cat is able to direct them into using their anger in the scene. Suddenly, magically, it comes together. They play the scene beautifully. They finish and the other people in the space applaud. Cat is thrilled, and dismisses everyone. Jeff, annoyed that she won’t let him do his job, says that he guesses that’s it.
Meg and Daniels go to a bar. Daniels has a drink. Actually, he has several. He begins expostulating about how amazing the theatre is. Meg is thrilled for him — she’s made a convert. People start snapping pictures of drunk Daniels, though, and Meg decides it’s time for him to go home. She helps him back to his hotel. His kisses her good night. She’s surprised, but lets him.
The next day at rehearsal Meg tells Jeff about the kiss — but Daniels walks in and the conversation is cut short. The rehearsal goes great, and afterwards the whole cast goes out to the bar. Meg asks Daniels if he wants to get out of there. He does. She takes him on a nighttime tour of New York. They ride the subway, see empty, lit-up Wall Street, go to a 24 hour dumpling shop, and end up on the Brooklyn Bridge. They have a real, sober, super romantic, Brooklyn-Bridge-at-night type kiss. They walk hand in hand back to her apartment, where he gallantly leaves her at the door. She asks if he’ll be able to navigate the subway back up to his hotel. He suavely assures her that he will. As soon as she goes inside he hails a cab.
We jump to the first full run through of the play. The producers have decided to come watch, and Meg’s in a tizzy. So is Cat. Only Daniels is unfazed, until they explain to him that they’ve seen shows completely changed after a bad producer run through. They begin. At first, things are stiff and rickety — but soon everyone gets into it, and it goes spectacularly well. The producers applaud. Meg grabs Daniels and yanks him into a prop closet. They make out. She tells him to take her home. They go to his hotel and have sex.
The next morning, they’re both shy and awkward. Daniels gets them both coffee and bagels from the hotel cafe. They’re awful bagels. Meg tries to be polite, but can’t manage it — she spits hers out and together they go out to find real New York bagels. She says she has to go home before rehearsal to get new clothes so everyone doesn’t know she spent the night with him, but he just buys her new clothes, instead. They’re cute and happy and Meg keeps ignoring calls from her agent. They get to the theatre in sky high spirits.
But the theatre’s quiet as a tomb. Cat sits the cast down to “have a talk.” She’s really not a people person. She tells them that the producers have decided to make some changes. She starts a weird digression about the magic of the theatre, and how a cast is like a family. It’s weird. Finally one of the producers steps in. They’ve decided to make some changes, he says, and he introduces a young, hot, vapid television starlet, Bella Harrison. He says that she’ll be taking over the roll of Lady Macbeth. Everyone is stunned. Meg storms out. Daniels follows her. She yells at him for not standing up for her. He says he was as blindsided as she was, but that it’s the producers’ call. She leaves. He tries to follow, but Jeff sticks his head into the hall and calls Daniels on stage.
We cut to later. Jeff shows up at Meg’s apartment with matzo ball soup. As he’s approaching her front door he sees Daniels, about to ring the bell. He hurries up and tells Daniels not to. Daniels hesitates, then nods and leaves. Jeff goes into Meg’s apartment. She’s wrapped in her blanket like a burrito. He tells her the new Lady M is terrible. She asks how Daniels was without her. He says terrible. Her phone rings. It’s Daniels. She ignores it.
Montage: Meg goes on auditions. She rides the subway. A homeless man throws garbage at her. Daniels rehearses with the bimbo. He’s dead-eyed and disengaged. The scenes are terrible. Cat pretends they’re good, which is somehow more depressing than if she just yelled at them. Alice pretends to take notes, but plays Candy Crush instead. Jeff watches Daniels’s movies on his phone instead of the real Daniels right in front of him. We see tabloid stories about Daniels and his costar. Meg books an experimental theatre piece where she runs around in her underwear and screams a lot.
We come out of montage at the bagel place where Meg took Daniels after they had sex. Daniels leaves just as Meg enters. They block the doorway while they have an awkward conversation. It’s opening night. Meg wishes him luck. He asks her what she’s doing. She tells him she’s in a deconstruction of a lost Brecht play. He tries to be enthusiastic. She’s ready to be done with the conversation, and says that she’ll see him at opening.
He goes to the theatre and begins preparing. Alice comes into his dressing room and asks how he’s doing. He says he’s terrible, and that it’s going to be a goddamn death march. He’s sure that he’s going to be destroyed by the reviewers, and that the play’s going to close early. He says he saw Meg, and that he misses her. Alice tells him to break a leg and leaves.
We follow her out of his dressing room. As Jeff calls half hour, Alice grabs him and pulls him into a broom closet. She tells him that they need to do something.
The audience settles into their seats. Jeff makes the rounds to call five minutes. A producer comes back to give Bella flowers, but can’t find her. He asks Alice if she’s seen Bella. Alice says she has — unfortunately, Bella became ill, and they’ve been forced to send on an understudy. As she speaks, we see in quick flashbacks what really happened — Jeff puts laxatives in Bella’s tea, while Alice grabs Meg as she walks into the theatre and whispers something in her ear.
The producer, furious, tries to get Jeff to hold the curtain, but Jeff ignores him and calls places. The witches take the stage.
We cut to Act I Scene V — the first time Lady Macbeth is onstage. When he hears her voice, Daniels, in the wings, looks up sharply. It’s Meg. He enters, transformed, and they play their scene exquisitely.
At intermission, the producers come backstage, furious. They accuse Jeff of sabotage, and tell Meg that she’ll never work again. Daniels finally pulls rank. He tells the producers that if they try to put Bella back onstage, he’ll quit the production.
Alice interjects, and says that that’s not what Daniels means to say. He looks at her in surprise, and says it’s exactly what he meant to say. She says no, what he meant to say is that he and Meg are now represented by the same person — Alice — and that they’re a package deal. If they try to put anyone opposite him, he’ll quit. Daniels says yes, that’s exactly what he meant. The producers storm off as Jeff calls places for the second act.
They finish the play. It’s excellent. The audience gives them a long standing ovation. As they take their bows, Meg and Daniels kiss.
As the credits roll, we see internet headlines. Rave reviews for the play. Bella’s character is killed in the pilot of her new show. Paparazzi photos of Meg and Daniels holding hands in Brooklyn. Daniels cast in his superhero movie, Meg cast as Hamlet on Broadway for Roundabout Theatre Company.