by Louise, Community Manager
Douglas is a well-connected, wealthy up-and-coming writer with several publications under his belt. Kate is a young, inexperienced writer who has been working on the same story for years. Izzy is a self-confident unpublished writer with a plan to use her sexuality to become famous quickly. Martin is a nervous, secretive writer who isn’t afraid to speak his mind in private but clams up in public. The four of them have pooled their money together to hire Leonard, an international literary figure and brilliant professor, to be their instructor for a private ten week writing seminar.
This is where we join the story of Seminar, a new play by Theresa Rebeck that just began previews and officially opens on Broadway on November 20th. I was originally drawn to the show by the idea of Alan Rickman playing a grouchy but brilliant author – I am sure I am not the only person for whom that will be the case. As we all learned from the Harry Potter franchise, there are few things more satisfying than listening to Alan Rickman be mean.
If you’re in it to hear Rickman deliver gloriously-crafted take-downs, you are in luck. My mother and I were absolutely in stitches as he ripped apart one character’s work in such a subtly cruel fashion (describing it at one point as “a perfect rendition of a New Yorker piece”) that the overly-confident character responds with “I’d love hear some criticism.” Honestly, if I had the opportunity to listen to two straight hours of Rickman perfectly handing down deliciously acrimonious barbs, I’d probably pay quite a bit of money to do so.
Lest you think I watched this play with tunnel vision, Rickman’s supporting cast is also incredibly talented and includes Hamish Linklater (probably best known for his role on The New Adventures of Old Christine) in a very impressive Broadway debut. In fact, every role is perfectly cast and while Rickman is the unquestionable star, I was impressed by the honest and dedicated performances of every cast member. Their relationships with each other begin complex and grow more complex throughout the play as they are faced with the reality of re-assessing their choices and re-evaluating their talent in the field they all wish to pursue.
If you’ve ever known young, struggling writers, or been one yourself, or just taken a writing class, this play will ring true for you. The way the characters interact with one another in and out of the class reflects, in the most entertaining possible way, the reality of young people trying to figure out how best to express their talent. If you enjoy sarcastic overly- (sometimes pseudo-) intellectual discourse and Kerouac jokes (and who doesn’t?!) then Seminar is for you. I will admit that I felt it fizzled at the end a bit, but the first 75% of the show was so delightful that I didn’t walk away feeling disappointed. My mother and I reminisced about our favorite pieces of dialog on the way to the subway and cracked ourselves up again just by repeating our favorite lines, always a sure sign that a playwright and a cast have delivered.
While I wouldn’t go so far as to say everyone should see this show, I think it’s safe to say that if you reached the end of this review and found it interesting, you’ll enjoy the show. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions and to secure tickets for your trip to New York!