University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill creative writing students may enjoy this show and may recognize themselves and some of their instructors in Seminar. Adam Versényi, chair of UNC’s Department of Dramatic Art and dramaturg for this PlayMakers Repertory Company production, says, “[T]he question at the root of this seminar is not so much what it takes to be an artist, but more provocatively, what it takes to be a human being.”
Surely, this play is fun and witty and, at times, wrenching; but it probably doesn’t look too deeply into the question of our humanity. The characters are all pretty human, and enjoyable, with touches of angst, jealousy, ambition, self-delusion, conceptuality and, yes, even lust and love. Written by Theresa Rebeck, who has experience in the areas of stage, television, film, and novel writing, and is pretty down with her subject, it makes for a very enjoyable ninety minutes of entertainment.
Director Michael Dove, making his PlayMakers debut, was founding artistic director of Forum Theatre in our nation’s capital, among his many directing credits. He has chosen his cast well for this interesting story of four potential fiction writers, who congregate to be enlightened by a man that they have heard of as a prolific and highly sought-after master author. The piece is ensemble driven, although the don of the seminar is of considerable focus as he becomes the center of his pupil’s lives for the duration.
Ray Dooley gives Leonard, the pedagogue, just the power the character needs to be the emotionally crippled, obnoxious, belittling, sexist bully required, while not pushing his character out of the sense of ensemble that the play desires. His monologue toward the end allows him to strip his character bare gently, layer bylayer, while never fully exposing the underlying turmoil.
In her delicate, subtle performance of Kate, the hostess at her family’s rent-controlled apartment in New York, Carey Cox treats us to a fragility that belies the muscle and bones beneath; and when the change comes, Kate turns on a dime into a grown-up version of her character.
Myles Bullock brings us a Martin, Kate’s chum since grade school, who is very attuned to their class disparity, seethes reluctantly with a social anger, and is unwilling to share his work with the others, perhaps driven by a sense of his own abilities combined with being unwilling to subject himself to Leonard’s haranguing.
Izzy, the hot, sexy and beautiful, potential trashy novel author, is perhaps the most at ease with herself of all, as portrayed by Allison Altman. While the thrust of this play is the search for true identity, Altman gives us a woman who knows who she is and has no regrets about it.
Schuyler Scott Mastain, as Douglas, plays up his character’s relationship to a famous writer, maintaining a demeanor of superiority, and a worldliness that he has not really earned.
The Manhattan home most of the play occurs in is tastefully appointed, and includes the lower lip of the stage, which is used as the seminar workshop. We were able to observe the easy transition of the back wall into Leonard’s writing den, with the lip becoming his foyer, as realized by scenic designer Robin Vest.
Seminar is an ideal show for a college campus. It gives both students and teachers a chance to recognize each other and be entertained by the experience.
SECOND OPINION: Oct. 14th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Brian Howe: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/seminar/Event?oid=4737857; and Oct. 13th Chapel Hill, NC Daily Tar Heel (student newspaper) preview by Kacey Rigsby: http://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2015/10/playmakers-debuts-seminar. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Oct. 14th Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2015/10/ray-dooley-stars-as-leonard-the-ego-shredding-writing-teacher-in-seminar-by-theresa-rebeck/.)
PlayMakers Repertory Company presents SEMINAR at 2 p.m. Oct. 18, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 20-23, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 25, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 27-30, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 31, and 2 p.m. Nov. 1 in the Paul Green Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Art, 120 Country Club Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514, on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.
TICKETS: $15 and up ($10 UNC students and $12 other college students), with discounts for UNC faculty and staff and U.S. military personnel, except $15 (general admission) Tuesday Community Night performances.
BOX OFFICE: 919-962-PLAY, firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://www.playmakersrep.org/tickets/single.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919-962-PLAY (7529), email@example.com, or http://www.playmakersrep.org/tickets/groupsales.
UNC NEWS SERVICES RELEASE: http://uncnews.unc.edu/2015/09/25/playmakers-presents-hit-broadway-comedy-seminar-starting-oct-14/.
PRESENTER: http://www.playmakersrep.org/, https://www.facebook.com/playmakersrep, https://twitter.com/playmakersrep, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlayMakers_Repertory_Company, and http://www.youtube.com/user/PlayMakersRep.
PRC BLOG (Page to Stage): http://playmakersrep.blogspot.com/.
NOTE 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices will be available at all performances.
NOTE 2: There will be an All-Access Performance, with sign-language interpretation and audio description by Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh, at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 20th.
NOTE 3: There will be FREE post-show discussions with members of the creative team following the show’s 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21st, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25th, performances.
NOTE 4: There will be an Open Captioning Performance at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 31st (for more information, click http://playmakersrep.org/outreach/allaccess/opencaption).
NOTE 5: The Lucy Daniels Foundation and the North Carolina Psychoanalytic Society will sponsor FREE post-show “Mindplay” discussions after the 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31st, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 1st, performances.
Seminar (2011 Broadway dramatic comedy): http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/7568/seminar (Samuel French), http://www.ibdb.com/Show/View/490650 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seminar_%28play%29 (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Theresa Rebeck (Kenwood, OH-born playwright): http://theresarebeck.com/ (official website), http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/379131 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theresa_Rebeck (Wikipedia).
Michael Dove (director and producing artistic director of Forum Theatre in Washington, DC): http://forumtheatredc.org/team/details/michael/36 (Forum Theatre bio) and http://www.playmakersrep.org/performances/embed_artist.aspx?id=194b2da8-7d70-4c99-b11d-2b9f11ba0fbb (PlayMakers Rep bio).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.