Like most seminars there are peaks and valleys, highlights and low spots, moments of boredom, moments of ecstasy and moments that are difficult to hear as exemplified in the new play SEMINAR by the gifted Theresa Rebeck just opened at the Golden Theatre on West 45th Street. But you won’t fall asleep at this sleeper hit of the season.
This is one very funny and smart playwright who can get into the minds of her characters and set up situations that are totally unexpected to reveal the truth and honest feelings and motivations within.
Attending this one hour and forty minute without intermission writing seminar in a large rent stabilized apartment on the Upper West Side inhabited by Kate (a delightful Lily Rabe) are three other budding novelists: The sockless, well connected gabber Douglas (Jerry O’Connell), the sexy and sly as a fox Izzy (Hettienne Park) willing to do just about anything or anyone to get published in The New Yorker and the shy, semi nerdy Martin (the immensely likable and laughable Hamish Linklater) who can’t pay his rent but has forked over 5000 bucks to be included yet doesn’t want to let the head master of the class the very Simon Cowell infected Leonard (Alan Rickman) read his work.
Writers write to be read. To be appreciated. To bare their inner most secret thoughts to a hopefully adoring, paying public. And so these four budding novelists have jumped into the writing pool to either be salvaged or ravaged by this supposed man of genius – Leonard – who has had some success as a novelist but has been hounded by a scandal and is now a journalist – his latest trip to Somalia allowing the playwright to have him leave the Seminar in question for a two week period and receive a great laugh upon his return.
Language and sex are at the forefront in SEMINAR which is presented in a series of short scenes with the scene changes nicely choreographed in half light. What these four have written (which is to be discussed or more likely to be torn apart after a brief scan) takes second place over who will be sleeping with whom and for what reasons, resulting in a farce like atmosphere at times which is great fun.
Sam Gold is the director. And he is an extremely good director. Precise. Direct. Adding detailed bits of business that highlight the often witty and heartfelt script that is chock full of unexpected plot twists and tricks that enables scenic designer David Zinn to exhibit his own set of surprises.
No one likes to be criticized or to be called a “Pussy” or a “Whore” which Mr. Alan Rickman does with aplomb, relishing those two words like truffles melting in his mouth. He is contemptuous and sardonic to a fault (truthful?) and has an 11 o’clock number (read monologue) wherein he explains what will happen to Martin (Mr. Linklater) if and when he finds success as the others silently watch in amazement. It’s a soul baring, enlightening, sad and wondrous moment of theatre.
At plays end one almost expects a sign to flash – “To be continued.” It would be most interesting to see what happens next.
www.SeminarOnBroadway.com At the Golden Theatre West 45th Street
Photo: Jeremy Daniel
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