by Kim Anderson
Beaumaris Theatre’s first production of their 2019 theatrical season is the fast paced, intelligent Seminar by Pulitzer Prize nominated playwright Theresa Rebeck. Set against the backdrop of New York City, Seminar takes its audiences into an intimate world peopled by four aspiring authors who have each handed over $5,000.00 to a writing instructor of some note for a series of 10 writing seminars.
We meet Douglas (Cristopher Newton), a pompous young man who whose family connections “might” get him over the line as a Hollywood writer; Kate (Alicia Patzer) who hosts the seminars in her father’s rent controlled Upper West Side apartment and has spent the past six years working over the same short story; Martin (Stuart Anderson); an intense and intelligent writer who refuses to show his work to anyone; Izzy (Rebecca Simpson), an earthy and shameless young woman who grasps every opportunity that presents itself to her, most of them sexual; and Leonard (Bruce Hardie) the bombastic and domineering writing instructor who proceeds to shred his students’ work and egos over the course of the play.
It would be easy for the piece to devolve into a mean spirited rant, yet director Kirsten Page deftly guides the actors through the dark comedy. The barbed quips the characters throw at each other are briskly paced, delivered with humour and intelligence and punctuated with judiciously placed laughs. Ms Page’s direction allows the characters to develop sensitively, unfolding in an unhurried manner never becoming strident or unlikable. They may be flawed but they are never un-relatable.
The strong ensemble cast handles the material exceedingly well, playing off each other effectively which allows an organic and natural pace to emerge as the show moves forward. Prolonged moments of silence within a several scenes are used to great effect and it is lovely to watch each actor reveal their character through subtle body language, facial expression and gesture as they respond to and support their fellow actors and the action onstage.
Production elements in Seminar ably back up the players, never detracting from the central action. Fred Pezzimenti’s airy and open set design firmly anchors the show to its location, cleverly transforming before the final scene. Scene changes are slickly executed with a contemporary soundtrack behind them which does its work to maintain the rhythm of the show. Costumes have been chosen to enhance character beautifully and serve to highlight individual aspects of each character’s personality with subtlety and care.
Seminar is an entertaining, thought provoking night out at the theatre. It will especially appeal to those who enjoy flexing their literary muscles. The production runs through 16th of March with tickets available at http://bit.ly/2TEIgup.