60-second review: SEMINAR (PTC)

Writers will find much familiar in Theresa Rebeck’s SEMINAR, which brilliantly satirizes writerly blowhards (a proportionally large subset) and the self-seriousness necessary to pursue this art. Burnt-out, self-aggrandizing Leonard (Rufus Collins) conducts a weekly seminar with four aspiring and pretentious authors who have paid $5,000 a head for the chance to have their writing—and entire beings—torn to shreds by his condescending barbs. Rebeck’s script runs with Neil Simon-esque one liners (“it wasn’t much of a lie: nobody believed it but you”) and intellectual wit (“you said anyone who doesn’t like Kerouac is hung-up about sex, and I’m the one who’s reductive?”), and is satisfying in its pace and humor. But emotions and character development rarely rise above the superficial, a flaw exasperated by an unsubtle production.

Luigi Sottile lights up early scenes as preppy blowhard and Genevieve Perrier is expressive as Kate, a wealthy Manhattanite and budding Jane Austin (though her old-money apartment is too bourgeois—an Ikea footstool?—in Kevin Rigdon’s set design). Chemistry between actors is slight, however: when we are told a romantic crush is obvious “to everyone in the same room”, it should be apparent to the audience as well. Collins excels when the play does mine interior emotion—in a long, increasingly pointed monologue on the pitfalls of success—but this is the only moment when the play reaches the high-standard of writing its angsty characters seek. March 15 to April 14, 2013. philadelphiatheatrecompany.org

(In light of the recent stagehands strike, it’s also worth mentioning a superbly executed scene change. Kudos and welcome back.)

60-Second Review, Reviews, Theater - Tags: , , , , , - 2 comments

About the author

Christopher Munden

Your faithful correspondent and publisher Christopher Munden has written and edited for many publications, websites, and cultural institutions. He was an editor/publisher of the Philly Fiction book series, collections of short stories written by local writers and set in Philadelphia. He's also a soccer coach and a pretty good skier.