Sunday, November 27, 2011

Seminar ***

(Always click on the title to see the complete review!)
Theresa Rebeck's new play at the Golden is a guilty pleasure. If you stop to analyze it for even a moment, the plot is full of implausibilities and contrivances, but, for me at least, they were more than compensated by a terrific cast, some very funny dialogue, and a first-rate production. Alan Rickman stars as Leonard, a famous writer/editor, both sinister and sexy, who has been paid $20,000 to lead a 10-week writing seminar for four budding writers: Kate (Lily Rabe), Martin (Hamish Linklater), Douglas (Jerry O'Connell) and Izzy (Etienne Park). Each of the four has a somewhat stereotypical set of traits. The group banter is entertaining for a while. Then Leonard arrives with his take-no-prisoners critique of their writing. Egos are bruised, sheets are rumpled, careers are molded. Since onstage nudity is almost de rigeur these days, Etienne displays her lovely breasts. The focus of the play wavers and finally settles on Martin, who has thus far been unwilling to submit his work for critique. The role of Leonard is hardly a stretch for Rickman, but he handles it with subtlety. The other cast members are excellent, the direction by Sam Gold is fine, and the sets and costumes by the ubiquitous David Zinn are wonderful. There is a moment (when some of the audience thought the play had ended) when the entire set flies upward to reveal a terrific new set underneath. It's not great theater, but it's entertaining. The audience loved it. Running time: 100 minutes; no intermission.

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