Theater Review: Seminar by Rarely Theatre

Rarely Theatre’s cast for its second outing is a who’s who assembled from a variety of other companies. Theatergoers will recognize the names behind the scintillating production of Theresa Rebeck’s Seminar — an evening of theater that is both thought-provoking and wildly entertaining in a voyeuristic and slightly sadistic way.

Director Scott Keel’s talented group of young actors who play pretentious, slightly fragile, massively self-involved fiction writers. They have pooled $5,000 each to hire a notable literary giant to give them a private seminar. What they get is a far stretch from the affirmation they had expected. Leonard, the professor, is played with the right blend of narcissism, arrogance and disinterested contempt by Parkway Playhouse’s producing artistic director Andrew Gall. He channels his inner Alan Rickman (who performed the role on Broadway) as he chews up and spits out the young authors.

Trinity Smith’s Kate takes the brunt of the initial savagery. She plays the de-facto leader of this group, trying to hold her own life together and looking for validation amid self-doubt. Dwight Chiles gives a great turn as Martin, who finds himself in more than one moral dilemma during the weeks that pass. Mary-Katherine O’Donnell’s wonderfully oversexed Izzy seems to be the slightest of the writers, yet garners the most initial attention from Leonard. Iain Alexander’s Douglas starts out as the most pretentious and suffers one of the most deflating critiques from Leonard. It is hard to not watch Alexander just for his resonate reactions to the goings on, even in scenes where he isn’t the focus of the abuse from Leonard.

Secrets and trusts are shared and betrayed throughout the show, as each character must come to terms with his or her own strengths and failings, and decide how much what others think of them truly matters. Seminar explores the ego of the writer, and how fragile it can be. It also shows how subjective one’s tastes are when it comes to good writing over bad, and how much or should be put into critical analysis from an expert.

This is a fast-moving, decidedly mature and often funny look at various types of writers, at least one of which most anyone can identify with.

Seminar continues its run at BeBe Theatre through Sunday, March 1, with shows Thursday-Sunday, at 7:30 p.m. $16-$20

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About Jeff Messer
playwright, actor, director and producer, Jeff Messer has been most recently known as a popular radio talk show host. He has been a part of the WNC theatre scene for over 25 years, and actively works with and supports most of the theatres throughout the region. Follow me @jeffdouglasmess

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