Words…Words…Words, the foundation plays are built on. Playwrights use them to create characters, discourse and plots that become microcosms for life. Actors absorb words and give them a voice, emotion and the breath of life. Words are the foundation of the Broadway community, and no words have been as deliciously scripted as those coming to life eight times a week at the Golden Theatre – Seminar is a seductive, sagacious comedy that is at the head of Broadway’s fall 2011 class.
Kate, Martin, Douglas and Izzy are four aspiring writers that gather together in Kate’s rent stabilized palace for a workshop with Leonard, a world-renowned literary genius who happens to be a venom-spewing, unconscionable scapegrace. Each session with Leonard has the potential to end disastrously, but throughout the course of Leonard’s brutal verbal boot camp, the foursome learns about their art, each other and about Leonard. If I had to sum up this production with a grade, I would be compelled to give an A with as many pluses as I could fit on the page.
How ingenious for a playwright to pen a play about four fledging writers taking a writing seminar with the hopes of elevating their style and becoming the next darlings of the literary world; only to be orally gunned down like the McLaury brothers at the O.K. Corral by the very person they admire and seek to impress. Every writer, including myself, has a story like that, which is why Seminar is a play that will be close to the soul of every writer who views it. But this production is not just for writers, it is for anyone in any creative field. Seminar is sophisticated; there is no doubt about it. Although, Rebeck’s luscious script may require some audience members to bring a thesaurus with them when attending a performance, the word play is a critical component to its allure. Her attention to detail and phrasing creates a world of its own – a linguistic oasis that I thoroughly enjoyed basking in.
In fact, every detail of this play is sublime. The foundation Theresa Rebeck supplies is impeccable. David Zinn’s costume and set designs are descriptive and complimentary to the characters. The direction of Obie Award winner Sam Gold provides the subtle nuances the really allows the actors to shine in their characters. This may be his Broadway debut, but this veteran needed no introduction to the Great White Way, this will be the first of many Broadway shows that will benefit from his skill. Additional members of this production who are making their Broadway debuts are television and film star Jerry O’Connell, Hettienne Park and Hamish Linklater. O’Connell’s portrayl of the name dropping, pseudo intellectual Douglas is extremely entertaining. From the first blistering monologue, he proves he deserves to be on the stage and should be welcomed into the theater community with open arms. Hettienne Park is excellent as Izzy. She makes using sex as a means to achieving success extremely comical. Hamish Linklater is totally convincing as Martin, the tragic genius. O’Connell, Park and Linklater did not make a Broadway debut, they made a Broadway coup! Lily Rabe puts the feminine in feminist/poor little rich girl Kate. She is always a pleasure to watch.
Perhaps the greatest detail of the show is the return of Alan Rickman to Broadway. Whether he is Hans Gruber, the Metatron or the Sheriff of Nottingham, Rickman is nothing less than stupendous. No one can play a frosty, cheeky snob like he does. Watching Rickman exhibit his talent live is worth the price of admission and is a memory that is priceless. There is so much right with this show I doubt anyone could find a reason not to pass this play with flying colors. Words have never been wittier.
Photos: Jeremy Daniel