February 2, 2012

Of Seminar on Broadway

To quote the memorable lines in the play, Seminar, is to copy almost the entire script.  But Theresa Rebeck wouldn’t like that.  And when dialogue starts to invade one’s mind like a phantom, perhaps it's time to apply occlumency against Snape’s cunning.  Except Snape isn’t the villain messing with people’s heads this time.  It's quite good, really, and reminds me of some indie films that I’ve watched over the years, such as Party Girl, Anything Else, and She’s the One, where the more contrived aspects of the story mesh well with the whole substance, if taken well.

@Seminar with Alan Rickman
You’d think that writing seminars, even when not really all that grand, however expensive, would still be at least useful to those seeking to enter the tortuous literary profession.  Well, this private seminar exposes the little insidious corners writers may find themselves in, if only for two hours in the stinging spotlight, under the direction of Sam Gold.

When four aspiring fiction writers employ the tutelage, or mental mutilation rather, of an embittered ex-novelist turned editor/journalist, they’ve not only hired a mentor with a penchant for dismissing their writing aspirations, forget about any potentials they might have, but they also unknowingly called on board a literary Lucifer who does not hesitate to  scourge them regularly with insults in their meetings.  So Leonard calls Martin a 'pussy' for his insecurities and refers to Douglas writing as a kind of 'whoring' for the Hollywood limelight.  What makes it worse for these guys is that they’re really pretty tame and aren’t at all interested in bedding their teacher for a mere chance of breaking into the writing profession, though their female counterparts might have been all along.  And the ever gracious fear goes around to befriend all and hand out shame...and one doesn’t have to be a writer to know it, even brutes and bullies aren’t impervious to it...not even Leonard.

Seminar could get you all punched up and thirsty for another round of quips.  You’d want to imbibe this seemingly understated show again...and again.  At least, I do.  Its stripped-off production is just a clever disguise to rouse the audience’ reception for increased penetration, figuratively speaking.  Its set design and music is striking, alluring, cozy…anything but plain.  Neither Izzy need lift her shirt nor Kate bend over for you to see the moonlight and take pleasure in the show.  By the way, I know we’re dealing with fiction here, but come on.  Who gets to have nice body parts while they are glued to their seats, hardly sweating except in a figurative sense, as they try to churn out well-cooked words in the real world, really?  I must be missing something.  But them fine folks have just begun to learn the business, so you say.  Okay, I get it.  I get that they get to consume half a gallon ice cream, a bag of potatoes, and a bowl of cookie batter while moping over their scourged hearts and flayed minds due to Leonard’s relentless slayings, lest I forget that art and the stage allow for a wide berth and a license to keep bodies firm and aesthetics intact, especially in the Upper West Side.  I so get it.

Unsurprisingly, Alan Rickman is in character once again and madly entertaining as the imperious, pitiless, slick tongued Leonard who lacerates his inferiors’ insides, but not to kill their bodies.  But who else could inflict wounds and infect the mind as severely as he?  Still, his cast mates shine no less in their roles that are conversely steeped in raw, pitiful naiveté:

Hamish Linklater idealizes the quixotic soul of a brooding, insecure, tortured writer in Martin.
Hetienne Park embodies Izzy’s blithe attitude through sex and, if possible, through writing and sex.
Lily Rabe cultivates the well-oiled yet inexperienced feminist-socialist in Kate by devising a fictionalized memoir, whatever that means, and fabricating a cross-dressing Cuban character to impress Leonard.
Jerry O’Connell dresses up the disillusioned, yet hip and endearing, cluelessness in Douglas.

@Seminar with Jerry O'Connell
How the characters navigate through their personal lives and if they survive their class sessions and learn anything at all, you’d have to see the play.  Seminar would be a nice requisite for aspiring writers, even professionals, to bring in the "exteriority" and fresh air into the dank "interiority" of the literary world, to use Douglas' words.  When prickly repartees fire off as soon as the curtains are drawn, it’s definitely a show not to miss if you can help it, even when there is no intermission, for some mental stimulation and laughs, and did I mention that I went to see it in January as a birthday present?

A few memorable lines I took home with me:
"You'd always be a talented nobody."
"After I write, I feel like evaporating..."
"Do you want to write, or not?"
"The problem with writers is their audience are humanbeings."
"It’s hollow. The work is hollow. I’d think about Hollywood."

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