2nd Story’s Witty Seminar

seminarCreating art isn’t easy. Creating great art can be even harder. In Seminar, now playing at 2nd Story Theatre through Feb 22, four aspiring novelists gather for a seminar where they receive critiques from a famous literary figure.

Izzy (Tania Montenegro), Martin (Ara Boghigian), Kate (Erin Elliott), and Douglas (James Lucey) sit on sofas in Kate’s luxurious apartment and endure the sometimes withering comments of Leonard (Ed Shea), who regales his students with stories of his foreign travels. He tells them he “ate cabbage with a Chechnyan psychopath” and describes writers as “feral cats.”

Leonard is not overly impressed with the stories he reads. “You’re talented but you’re never gonna be great,” Leonard tells Doug. None of Leonard’s students have a lot of respect for him, yet they keep trying to win his praise. They also have prickly relationships with each other. Martin doesn’t care for Doug or his writing, which he considers “hollow,” and Izzy implores her classmates to stop arguing. There are many more twists and turns, which I will not spoil.

Seminar was written by Theresa Rebeck, who creates sharp dialogue and complex characters. The plot features plenty of conflict and lots of funny moments, which come as the byproduct of human frailty.

Elliott is the real standout in the cast as the brooding and cynical Kate, who unleashes her contempt for Leonard every chance she gets. Shea, who has directed several shows at 2nd Story, is a charismatic performer. Boghigian is every bit his equal as they make these characters riveting, if not necessarily likable. Their relationship reaches a satisfying conclusion in the final scene.

Director Pat Hegnauer has staged the show in the round, with only some couches and chairs for decoration. The pacing is fast and the interactions between the characters are fun to watch.

Seminar is an entertaining show that will leave you thinking about the artistic process and the inner life of a writer.

Seminar – Performances: Jan. 29 – Feb. 22

Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays @ 7:30pm, Sundays @ 2:30pm

2nd Story Theatre/UpStage, 28 Market Street, Warren; 401.247.4200, boxoffice@2ndStoryTheatre.com; Buy online: 2ndStoryTheatre.com

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