Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Seminar": Literary Aspirations And Humiliations

In Theresa Rebeck's "Seminar," in previews at the Golden Theatre, Leonard (Alan Rickman) is teaching a weekly writing seminar to four aspiring young novelists. His assessments of the work of Douglas (Jerry O'Connell), Martin (Hamish Linklater), Kate (Lily Rabe) and Izzy (Hetienne Park) are caustic and even unforgivably dismissive, as when he rejects a story by Kate based on the half of a sentence before the semi-colon. The young writers are driven by one-upmanship, expressed in shifting alliances, including sexual liaisons. Up to this point, we seem to have a barbed comedy focusing on literary pretensions. As the play continues, however, the characters wrenchingly reveal themselves, especially Leonard. Accusations of plagiarism decades ago short-circuted a promising literary career. Whether he can renew his sense of purpose, even through guiding his students, is at the heart of this incisive, witty and powerful play.

SEMINAR by Theresa Rebeck; directed by Sam Gold. At the Golden Theatre, 252 W. 45th St., NYC, (212) 239-6200. Previews from Oct. 27; Opening night, Nov. 20

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