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by Giorgia Severini on 12/26/2016 11:05 AM

A glimpse into the machine
I expect this show lives or dies on the performance of the actor in the role of Leonard. He has to be annoying, likeable, sexy, sharp, world weary. It's a star vehicle. The students fit the profile of an over privileged, not necessarily, but possibly talented group (they hand over a large sum to indulge in a private writing seminar!) but Rebeck has made them just interesting enough beyond their stereotypes.
When I was prompted to write this review, I was all set to give it 4 stars, but in the writing realised that although it's very entertaining, after setting up a great premise and come strong comedy, it seemed to dribbled to a close in a somewhat disconnected final scene trying to put a bow on it. And I haven't really thought about it since I put it down.

by Virginia Proud on 1/27/2015 6:13 AM

Teach Me, Teacher
What is greatness, how do we achieve it, and what is expected from ‘great’ people? Four young novelists hire a top writer, Leonard, to tutor them privately. While a brilliant author, Leonard makes for a shoddy teacher, at least at the surface. His lessons seem weightless, and cynical. Discovering Leonard’s flaws and learning that his teaching is fruitless, each student find their own way to manipulate the man into giving them what they want.

We have great expectations from our teachers. We want them to move us, to challenge us, and ultimately to make us successful.  This gives them a ton power over our lives. Rebeck explores how that power is used and how these five people fight for it, through sex, through brownnosing, through talent.

The play moves wonderfully fast and offers incredible wit. Rebeck is at her strongest here. While the characters are strong, there is room for a bit more development of the relationship between the two young leads. Our expectations for them could be a bit higher, but that could possibly be done on the stage. This play can be a great vehicle for an older leading man, and will offer a good night at the theater for the audience.  

by Travis Ballenger on 4/29/2013 12:53 PM

A well-balanced piece

Seminar is  a play about the creative writing business of the late-20th / early-21st century. Two male leads and two female leads come together to hire a lauded editor as their private writing tutor, and through these 5 characters' interactions the audience is privy to debates on the essence and ethics of writing in the modern western world. Some of the characters are willing to sleep their way to the top of the writing world, some value truth and expression more than anything in the world, and some just want to have their names in the press.

Seminar has many strong points. It has moments of comedy, of drama, of romance. It has five generally equal roles, which make it a good piece for a college or community theater, or any place in which ensemble work thrives. It has much room for interpretation– settings such as 'Upper West Side loft' give enough information to inspire a sophisticated set without demanded a particular staging.

Setting these positive aspects aside, the play does have it's faults. There are some major bumps in character development, and as a company putting this on you may find that the text requires smoothing out. At times, Seminar asks the audience to make jumps that are just a little too big, accepting dissonant character decisions– such as the manipulative seductress character also being the ditzy and talentless member of the writing group.

Overall, this is a strong piece to produce; it has something to say, and it doesn't fail to entertain.

by Jordan Sucher on 4/24/2013 3:34 PM

Powerhouse Ensemble Work
An excellent ensemble piece, Seminar, a new play by Theresa Rebeck, explores the lives of four aspiring young writers and their influential and often abusive professor.  As the writers explore the intricacies of making meaningful art and being financially successful in this endeavor, they face the challenge of surviving the obstructive criticism of their cynical though lauded instructor.

Having paid a substantial sum to be taught by the praised writer, each student is expecting a valuable experience.  When some realize this expense may have been poorly invested, a struggle amongst the group ensues to either rectify or justify their participation. An affair between the professor and a student under his tutelage serves to exasperate this battle as each pupil strives to find their voice and place in the group.

The humor in this play is often derived from the uncomfortable nature of watching a young person’s dreams eviscerated by a leader in the art community.  Unfortunately, this is often the cornerstone for education in the highly critical and subjective medium of creation.  Comedy is also invoked by the willingness of the students to turn a critical eye on each other in the wake of the demoralizing experience of the destruction of their work.  

An unapologetic explanation from the professor as to his highly disparaging nature serves to unlock the mystery of his actions but does not attempt to excuse his behavior.  With this, Rebeck artfully explores the motivations of disapproving leaders in the art community without justifying their ineffectual attempts to share their hard-earned wisdom.

Seminar has excellent roles for women and men, evenly distributed humor and every character making a journey for their art.  This play is great choice for a company with a talented young cast.

by Karen Heimbaugh on 4/21/2013 4:56 PM