Seminar/by Theresa Rebeck/directed by Sam Gold/Ahmanson Theatre/through November 18
Playwright Theresa Rebeck manifests a genuine dedication to the arts. In Mauritius she entered the world of painting and propagated an detailed appreciation of art collecting. Now in Seminar it is writing that takes center stage. Every writer who has heard "You must write this. It must be told" needs to see this play for a million reasons, but... First, to see if you rightfully belong in the club, and if so, why you have to overcome the fear of sharing your work...and trust. With first rate direction from Sam Gold and a sparkling cast headed by Jeff Goldblum, Seminar not only entertains enormously but also makes you think seriously about where you are in your chosen field and where you ought to be. Get yourself quickly to the Mark Taper Forum through November 18 only!
Leonard (Goldblum) teaches private seminars and as his students - selected from la creme, I might add - are rich, intelligent Kate (Aya Cash), verbose, arrogant Douglas (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe), sexpot Izzy (Jennifer Ikeda) and unhappy, reluctant Martin (Greg Keller). Martin is reluctant to submit any of his writing as he disapproves of Leonard's style, which to say the least is brusque and torturous. Kate and Douglas are both insulted, only Izzy seems to get any praise for her fresh, energetic couple of pages, brimming with sexual edge. Izzy is easy, will do what she has to do to get ahead, which means sleeping with the boss, in this case, Leonard. Kate, on the other hand, suffers deeply Leonard's abusive treatment of her work; he calls her a whiner. Kate, however, as the brightest, has a helluva big eye-opening surprise in store for everyone.
Seminar has a deliciously cool uptempo rhythm from start to finish. Short scenes meld nicely into slightly longer scenes and the action flows along without the slightest bit of tedium, as dialogue is fast, sharp and fiercely smart: a tribute to Rebeck's quickly paced style whereby nothing is wasted. Thanks to her and director Gold, the cast really delivers. Goldblum is devilishly funny; even at his most brutal, he never makes Leonard unlikable. I wish I had had a teacher like him, a true servant of incomparable measure! Cash and Ikeda make Kate and Izzy's idiosyncracies ring with fervor. Near-Verbrugghe and Keller have equal success with delineating the differences between Douglas and Martin, but it is ultimately Martin's dilemma with trust that brings the play's meaning to the surface, and Keller plays out the complexities with earnest intent. David Zinn's scenic design is amazing, especially when Kate's apartment opens up to reveal Leonard's gigantic wearhouse loft space behind, with floor to ceiling library-like stacks of books.
Seminar is a wonderfully engaging, relective and fulfilling evening of theatre. There's a lot of substance in the play, but because of Rebeck's consistently fluent style and a terrific cast, it is never difficult to swallow.