This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

25Feb/12

SEMINAR

Wannabe writers get a whole lot more than they bargained for in SEMINAR

Golden Theatre
252 West 45th St. between Broadway & Eighth Ave.
Starring Alan Rickman through April 1, followed by Jeff Goldblum starting April 3, $51.50 - $121.50
www.seminaronbroadway.com

Inspired by her three years writing for David Milch on NYPD Blue, Theresa Rebeck’s Seminar is a solidly entertaining, very funny examination of competition and the creative process. Kate (Lily Rabe), Martin (Hamish Linklater), Douglas (Jerry O’Connell), and Izzy (Hettienne Park) are members of a private writing class led by the rather acerbic Leonard (Alan Rickman), a famous novelist and editor who charges the eager would-be writers five grand a piece for his services. Held in Kate’s family’s ritzy Upper West Side apartment, each class session consists of Leonard’s critique of a different student’s work. Desperate for his approval, they find out quickly that their story — as well as their life — is more likely to be shredded apart by the cynical Leonard, who rambles on about his travels to war-torn nations while debasing three of the writers; he has only kind things to say about Izzy, turned on by her erotically charged writing and sexy demeanor.

Alan Rickman will continue dishing out biting literary criticism on Broadway through April 1

Although the plot features few surprises, the dialogue by the prolific Park Slope-based Rebeck — she’s written numerous plays, several novels and screenplays, and is the creator and executive producer of the new television series Smash — is sharp and incisive, alternating between biting and laugh-out-loud funny. The part of Leonard seems tailor made for Rickman, who revels in the character’s love of language; just when it seems that Rickman is drifting off a bit, he charges back with a quiet fury that dominates the stage. The supporting cast, featuring O’Connell (Stand by Me, Jerry Maguire), Shakespearean regular Linklater (The New Adventures of Old Christine), and Park (The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures) making their Broadway debuts alongside Tony nominee Rabe (The Merchant of Venice), is strong throughout, each actor adding just the right nuance to avoid becoming caricatures. Although most of Seminar takes place in a single room, director Sam Gold gives it a swift vitality, a strength he also displays in the current production of Look Back in Anger at the Roundabout. As a bonus, the night we saw Seminar, Jeff Goldblum, who replaces Rickman in the role of Leonard on April 3, was sitting nearby, apparently seeing the show for the first time. He leaned forward through most of the ninety-five minutes, his mouth hanging open, his eyes darting from character to character, following every movement with an extended hand, studying the play almost as if he were a student preparing for the most important class of his life.

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