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a Comedy/Drama
by Theresa Rebek

COMPANY : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
ID# 4464

SHOWING : May 10, 2013 - June 16, 2013



Runaway Broadway hit from the author of Actor’s Express hit Mauritius and creator of TV’s “Smash!”

Four aspiring writers get the education of a lifetime when they sign up for a writing class under a brilliant, egomaniacal, world-famous author. The elite opportunity deteriorates into sardonic criticism as innocence and experience collide. No one is quite who they seem to be in this sharply funny piece, one of the biggest hits of the 2012 Broadway season.

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Beautifully Acted
by playgoer
Sunday, May 26, 2013
Theresa Rebeck's "Seminar" throws together four promising writers with a caustic, dismissive, has-been author cum teacher. There's humor in some of the interchanges, drama in others, and a few nice plot twists. The play itself is entertaining, if a bit crude, but it's the actors' performances that really sparkle in the Actor's Express production.

Andrew Benator's Leonard seems irredeemably cruel at first, and it's only in the final moments of the play that we get to understand fully his mindset in taking on his editing and teaching positions. He's not a nice person by any means, but it's an interesting journey on which he takes us (and his students). Shifting loyalties on both sides of the teacher-student dynamic keep constant interest.

David Plunkett starts the play off with a writerly pretentious monologue as Douglas. His energy and enthusiasm drive home the points of his story, and he opens the show with verve and drive. His role dissipates as the show goes on, but he remains a valuable presence.

Bryn Striepe is well cast as the bombshell Izzy. Although an intern at Actor's Express, she gives a fully realized performance. Her role also diminishes as the play proceeds, but she makes a strong impression from start to finish, balancing an innate sexiness with grounded intelligence.

The role of Martin increases in importance as "Seminar" rolls along. Barrett Doyle plays him with great intensity. There are moments when his acting gives off whiffs of "acting" rather than reality, but a lot of that is due to the writing of his role. The wound-up insularity of his character is designed to provide a contrast to teacher Leonard, and he seems less a person in his own right than a reverse image of Leonard.

Cara Mantella plays Kate in the best performance I've seen from her. Her role is a bit of a contrivance at points, but her reactions and interplay always ring true. She adds fire and humor in equal amounts, moving the show along in its intermissionless running time.

Except for the final scene, the play takes place in Kate's rent-controlled West End Manhattan apartment. Phillip Male's set design didn't really ring true to me. The overall architecture featured design elements popular in upper-end Atlanta housing of the 1980's, and the eclectic furniture looked like the collection of a person with an iffy artistic eye, not the leftover furniture of a longstanding family residence.

The artwork on the walls also showed a variety of artistic sensibilities. It was a nice variety, but hardly cohesive. Mary Parker's lighting lit the three main paintings during scene changes, along with the river-view window, giving a very nice effect. Otherwise, the lighting design didn't call for much creativity.

The time period of the play was also a bit up in the air. The recessed bookcases in the apartment contain some LPs, and the final scene features an electric typewriter, but reference is made in the dialogue to computers. It's unclear if there's a retro feel, or if the action is taking place in the past. References to Somalia concern a portion of the world that has been in turmoil for decades, so there's no clear placement in time from the script.

Director Freddie Ashley has put together a production that hits on all cylinders. Theresa Rebek's script probably reflects on some of her experiences in this country's literary workplace, and it's a bit of a cynical look. Nevertheless, there's an excitement to the production and the ideas it presents that translates directly to audience enjoyment. "Seminar" is an engrossing, splendidly acted play that is closing Actor's Express's 2012-2103 season with a bang. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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