'Seminar' is a high-value night of theater
By Alice T. Carter
Published: Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, 8:59 p.m.
If PBS were shopping for a sitcom to produce, Theresa Rebeck's “Seminar” would be a good place to start.
It's sharp, funny and filled with the kinds of observations, opinions and characters that appeal to those of us who subscribe to The New Yorker and often dip into the stories and articles that fill the spaces around its cartoons.
Rebeck comes with stellar credits. Her plays are often produced on Broadway and at regional theaters. But at the moment, she's most widely known as the creator of “Smash!,” a show in its second season on NBC.
“Seminar,” which opened Friday night at City Theatre, focuses on four young aspiring writers and the somewhat faded and disgraced literary rock star they have hired to mentor and coach them.
Each of them has paid Leonard $5,000 for 10 sessions during which he will critique and hopefully improve their writing and maybe give their fledgling careers a boost.
None of them is hoping to write mysteries, thrillers or romances. The creation of literature — books that win the National Book Award , short stories featured in The New Yorker— is the stuff their dreams are made of.
They're not an untalented lot. But each is burdened with individual defenses or attitudes that make him or her recognizable, interesting and often very funny.
Douglas, the most successful and pretentious of the group, is just returned from a prestigious writer's colony and sprinkles his observations about the “interiority” and “exteriority” of the landscape and how his latest work ended up “more tonally.”
Kate feels protective about her one special short story that she has been writing and rewriting for six years.
Izzy is the pragmatic, using connections with Leonard to jump-start her career.
Martin is reluctant to share his work, particularly after Leonard shreds that of the first volunteers with vicious, impatient attacks that he sees as tough-love interventions.
Rebeck's strength is in her dialogue that's peppered with references that make audiences laugh and feel like knowledgeable insiders.
She creates characters that are familiar, but still reveal surprises along the way.
Director Tracy Brigden keeps “Seminar” moving forward with a snappy pace that brings the show to its meaningful conclusion in just over 90 minutes with no intermission. She has assembled a cast of players who comfortably inhabit their roles.
Daniel Gerroll fleshes out the pompous, self-absorbed Leonard with rapid bursts of sharp put-downs and barely conceived contempt. He doesn't get past the first semicolon in Kate's story before demolishing her work and her ego.
As Kate, Rebecca Harris wallows in self-pity, devouring cookie dough and passivity before asserting herself and her talent.
Charles Socarides is delightfully insecure as Martin, emitting the aura of someone who feels outclassed in the company he keeps.
Nadia Gan's Izzy energizes the proceedings with her sexual romps that destabilize relationships and create tension.
Scenic designer Tony Ferrieri offers support with solutions that allow a swift change of location from Kate's huge, well-appointed Upper West Side apartment and Leonard's shabbier, but equally comfortable and book-filled, Greenwich Village apartment.
Ultimately, everyone gets something of value from this “Seminar,” whether it's new insights, a career push or simply a witty and engaging evening of theater.
Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Alle-Kiski Valley economic development group honored for police training
- PennDOT wants Rock Airport in West Deer to remain open
- Renter tries to battle New Kensington house fire
- Penguins’ Bylsma wants Cup version of Letang
- Scottdale to reconsider use of complaint forms
- Dawson mayor, CSX aim to repair railroad crossing at intersection
- Mulch pitched for Vanderbilt park’s playground; surface proposed under swings, slide, climbing bars
- Orpik: Penguins must keep their cool
- South Connellsville accepts police chief’s resignation
- Pirates trade for Mets first baseman Davis
- Oakmont father-son team’s efforts help add Mon Valley names to police memorial