Kate (Aya Cash) started out being the gracious one. She was the one who offered up her New York rent controlled “palace” apartment as the classroom for the Seminar, conducted by the formidable, infamous writing coach Leonard. Included in the tiny private seminar are Douglas (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe), a exquisitely pretentious, award-winning Ivy League writer who comes from a family of famed writers, despite his practice of viciously assassinating the English language with every line of prose he writes; good thing no one has told him so.
Despite the five thousand dollar price tag on the private course, it is clear to all how hottie sex kitten Izzy (Jennifer Ikeda) has found her way into this exclusive group; she’s a writer, one among many of her obvious talents. And rounding out the quartet is Martin (Greg Keller), the classic starving artist who births every word he writes with reverence and pain, but also in relative secrecy. Martin is a childhood friend of Kate but despite his long-lived schoolboy crush, Martin’s oblique signs of affection are leaning towards a much easier target, Izzy.
Leonard (Jeff Goldblum) arrives. He is loud, he is loquacious, he is more than irreverent, he is actually mean. Given to flagrantly wondering off topic, He critiques Kate’s Jane Austin inspired work with the venom of an arachnophobe that grinds an eight-legged insect under the heel of his boot. The following week he praise the sexually charged, albeit completely empty one and a half pages of Izzy’s work as a good start. The following week, he generously slams Douglas’s latest work as whore-ish. Leonard’s passion, insensitive rants unfortunately resonate with the group as having a skeleton of truth within them. Nevertheless, the sessions leave Kate and Douglas with a taste for some kind of vindication seeded in Leonard’s character, if not just outright revenge. Lastly, Martin’s reluctant to share his work becomes apparent, drawing a challenge to him from Kate.
I really enjoyed this play. This group of actor, for all that they lack in actually ensemble chemistry, gave strong, believable, funny their individual roles. Aya Cash as Kate and Greg Keller as Martin, rendered the archetypal roles of misunderstood Rich girl and 21st century, anguished fiction novelist with vigor and depth; Keller in particular as one of the only two characters to display any relatable humanity.
For me, playwright Theresa Rebeck’s Seminar served up some hard truths, or rather the insidiousness condition of being a nobody with talent. It is the grossly untold plight of the artistic – the conflict between artistic integrity and unrighteous opportunism. There are many who are draw to the arts, enticed by doctrine like –“the cream always rises to the top”, “just be good and you’ll make it one day” and my personal favorite “You have to believe it’s gonna happen, or it won’t.” Rebeck’s play reminds us artists that maybe we need a little cynicism. Because no one can climb any ladder until someone who has already ascended, reaches down to pull him or her up. So a little calculated compromise, to sell one’s soul by just a tiny bit, is sometimes necessary to survive.
However, the artist should always remember to constantly measure that compromise with the cost to your soul and your art.
Seminar is running now through November 18, 2012 at:
35 N. Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(Corner of N. Grand Ave and W. Temple Street)