Ryan Watson, Brian Hinds, Jon Becraft, April Singer & Beth Tantanella in Seminar.
Photo: The Bard’s Town
By Theresa Rebeck
Directed by Brian Walker
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2015 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved
Theresa Rebeck is a prolific playwright, with 20-odd full-length plays and prodigious work for television (Law & Order, Smash), and in Seminar she explores the mentoring dynamic between an egotistical writer/editor and a small, select cadre of post-graduate writing students. Director Brian Walker has been in such a relationship with Ms. Rebeck herself, having participated in a six-month-long workshop with her in Nashville a couple of years ago. We can only assume that it was a happier experience than the one depicted in this play.
Leonard (Brian Hinds) is a famous writer leading a seminar with four young writers who have each paid him $5000. He bullies, berates and savagely dissects them in scathing language that shows no mercy. The brutal attacks drive the interpersonal relationships among the group, which includes two old friends, Kate (April Singer) and Martin (Jon Becraft), the overly pretentious Douglas (Ryan Watson), and the flirtatious Izzy (Beth Tantanella), causing friction and divisiveness. Eventually there are some surprises in how things play out and the choices the characters make, especially Kate and Martin.
The overall level of performance was terribly high, with fierce, unyielding energy from the cast. I’ve always thought Brian Hinds makes dry wit and deadpan delivery look deceptively easy, but he also makes Leonard’s vitriol and understated pathos seem equally effortless. There are only a handful of actors in town who could do justice to this role, and Mr. Hinds is one of them.
Jon Becraft has done strong, avant-garde work with his group, Baby Horse Theatre, and it was nice to witness the same spark of unconventionality brought to bear on more traditional material. If April Singer provides less revelation, it is only because she has been, of late, on something of a roll in discovering complex roles that move her outside of her comfort zone and afford her measurable growth as an artist.
Ryan Watson and Beth Tantanella are also right on the money, though the script takes the other three characters an extra leg of the journey that leaves Douglas and Izzy behind; but Mr. Watson once again proves himself the master of uptight intellectualism, while Ms. Tantanella brings sexy charm to the least developed character.
Seminar is a worthwhile study of the demands placed on any artist whose ambition is to change the world and not just settle for making a buck. It is as thoughtful as it is blisteringly funny, and played to the hilt by a tight ensemble.
June 11-13, 18-20, 2015 @7:30 PM
The Bard’s Town
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40205
[box_light]Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being one of the hosts of PUBLIC on ARTxFM, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.[/box_light]