Albie's dream of being a memorable Hamlet is literally brought to earth when he's required to imitate a salamander at the audition for an elite program in method acting run by English teacher Mr. Pierce. Still, Albie's chosen; and as the summer progresses he learns about the program's other participants, as well as about the demanding skill he hopes to master. He takes a nice girl to an obnoxiously rowdy party, where he carelessly abandons her for sexier Stephanie, who promptly dumps him for talented Cliff--who turns out to be having a relationship with Mr. Pierce. Good friend Mitch is also gay, he tells Albie--which is disconcerting news, but opens possibilities with other good friend Maggie--until Albie almost ruins this promising development by what he guiltily thinks of as near-rape. Meanwhile, he's absorbed in class and out to give a thrilling final performance that creatively combines Hamlet with his salamander impersonation. It's not always easy to feel sympathy for Albie--like many 15-year-olds, he brings trouble on himself with a blend of insensitivity and awkwardness--but he is a believable character who manages to learn from his painfully realistic mistakes. Other characters are more schematically drawn. The details of the Stanislavsky/Strasberg method--while interesting--are not perfectly integrated. Still, a pungent, unsentimental picture of an immature but talented boy at a pivotal time.