Nevada Conservatory Theatre presented Theresa Rebeck’s comedy
“Seminar” directed by Michael Lugering last week in a one-weekend-long
“marathon” of back-to-back shows.
“Four aspiring novelists sign-up for private writing classes with an international literary figure. Under his recklessly-brilliant,
unorthodox instruction, some thrive and others flounder, alliances are
made and broken, sex is a weapon, hearts are unmoored.”
New York Times critic Ben Brantley said of the Broadway production,
“…To me, this sounds like phony phoniness…
“To me, specifically about the script, it was, you will either love it
or hate it.”
That’s what art is. Not all scripts are for all audiences. Pace was
perfect, acting uniformly competent, but this type of armchair
psychology driven by a character who is “talented but flawed” (turns
out Leonard is a plagiarist) is old-hat. Although there were many
laugh-lines audience picked up on, and a Bón-mòt or two (“boys can’t
get enough of themselves…”), I felt unimpressed.
I am both unaffected and unimpressed by over-use of the “F-bomb”; and
brief nudity was tastefully done but seemed an author’s gimmick and not really an important part of driving the character or plot.
Yes, Izzy is a sexy-woman: So what! Is showing full-on-top-off a key to
this show? (I am clearly not a prude as I go full-on total-nude at
“naturist locations” where it is appreciated and not a big deal.)
Well, no one gasped or left, so the good news is: We are all becoming
accustomed–come a long way, baby–since, “Hair.” The cast “worked it”
through and through and for that I was pleased.
Set design by Shannon Moore was minimalist-chic with words projected
on back-scrim: “tin house (new writers platform) Yaddo (retreat for
artists), envy, fame, sex, stuck” from concepts in the script. (Tin
House also runs a by-admission-only summer writers’ workshop held at
Reed College). Clearly, these theatre-artists have done their
The rotating-set and clever lighting by designer Manuel
Ramirez worked well to signal time changes and moods.
Seminar official logo is a muddle of words: “money, power, seduction.”
Indeed, that is what it is about (isn’t nearly everything?).
Equity actor Jeff Williams as Leonard the seminar-teacher anchored
this cast as he teased out their strengths and weaknesses with just
the right touch of pathos and personality (Jeff Goldblum was one of
the Leonards on Broadway); Jasmine Mathews was a smart, spritely Izzy;
Jack Lafferty was loveable as poor but courageous Martin; Madison
Kisst, believeable as insecure but evolving Kate; and Bernhard C.
Verhoeven, confident as Douglas, a name-dropping well-heeled “swell.”
Each character grew during the show, as expected.
Costume designer Elizabeth LaRouche provided pleasant costuming; sound
and technical director Tom Egan provided perfect sound; production
stage manager Jade Cagalawan, unseen but not unneeded, as are all
other “invisible” staff and crew, who always work hard, without
limelight, to make UNLV productions a pleasure to attend. Director
Lugering teaches voice, movement and acting at UNLV and authored a
comprehensive theatre book, “THE EXPRESSIVE ACTOR.”
One more note: the lobby displays!!! I love seeing sketches, notes,
mock-ups, miniatures and swatches that teach subtly about the process
behind productions. I wish all theaters shared this. upcoming
productions: Eurydice, Five Women Wearing the Same Dress and more:
pac.unlv.edu or call 895-ARTS (2787).