Monday, November 21, 2011

Seminar Opens on Broadway

Theresa Rebeck's new play, Seminar, about a writer (played by two time Tony-nominee Alan Rickman) giving a lecture to four writing students (played by Hamish Linklater, Jerry O'Connell, Hettienne Park, and Tony-nominee Lily Rabe) opened last night at Broadway's John Golden Theatre. The reviews are in and are decidedly mixed. The acting and direction were universally praised. I think that the reviewer for Variety had the best of the descriptions, describing "a terrific Broadway debut by well-known entity Jerry O'Connell, ... another eye-catching Broadway debut by Hamish Linklater, ... [and] yet another wonderful Main Stem debut by Hettienne Park. Alan Rickman is heaven-sent as the sexy, sneering, snarling literary legend who condescends to tutor four aspiring novelists who have paid through the nose for the privilege of being abused. Best of all, there's Kate, a Bennington girl who's an endearing mass of contradictions -- and cheerfully aware of them all in Lily Rabe's magnetic performance."

The script itself, however, got mixed reviews. Variety sayd, "the problem here is that the audience is never made privy to any actual work produced by Leonard's students, which makes his clever pronouncements sound facile and his sage insights seem shallow. But if Rebeck isn't really interested in a serious literary exchange between a wise old statesmen and his promising apprentices, she's entirely committed to exploring the teacher-pupil and pupil-pupil sexual dynamics of private educational pods like this one."

The New York Times had this to add. "Ms. Rebeck and the agile director Sam Gold are well aware of the market value on Broadway these days of hustling a comedy on and off the stage in a breezy hundred minutes that needn’t pause for intermission. Ms. Rebeck, whose Mauritius was seen on Broadway four years ago, is a canny craftswoman with a sensibility poised somewhere between that of Yasmina Reza (queen of the quick, smart comedy) and Neil Simon (the longest-reigning king of the New York-style one-liner). Brightly acted by an ensemble that includes Hamish Linklater, Lily Rabe, Jerry O’Connell and Hettienne Park, “Seminar” keeps the laughs marching forward like a series of well-drilled military troops, and it never jams up or sags. But it can’t sustain more than one thought or emotion or effect at the same time."

Sets and costumes were also well received.

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