Seminar, a play by Theresa Rebeck, directed by Sam Gold and starring Alan Rickman, Hamish Linklater, Lily Rabe, Jerry O’Connell, and Hettienne Park currently at the Golden Theater, in New York City.
I’m going to start by being honest. This is why I went to see the play:
Meeting Alan Rickman. Yes, immensely shallow of me, a stage degree-toting and supposed aficionado of the “theatre,” but that is the truth. I had built the experience up in my head into this sparkling and witty exchange between myself and Alan and the rest of the cast and instead, I just thrust out my program, and said nothing other than a quiet thank you. Mercifully someone behind me, engaged Mr. Rickman in chitchat about Snow Cake so I got to hear his voice up close and personal, which was the second reason I went to New York. He is soft spoken and came across to me to be at least as shy as I am … but that voice! Sound and voice have become very important to me as of late. I now wear two hearing aids and have come to realize how subjective sound truly is. Which brings me to a rather sad truth about my experience at Seminar – I missed about a third of what was being said — not through any fault of the performers and I don’t think it was the acoustics in the theater, I think it was a combination of where I was sitting and the performance of the hearing aids at this particular event. It was most frustrating to have everyone around me laughing and not having a clue as to what had just been said.
PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT THERE ARE SPOILERS FROM HERE ON DOWN SO GO SEE THE SHOW AND THEN COME BACK AND READ (oh, and when you do, maybe you can fill me on what I missed).
The performances were of course excellent as one expects at this level of professional theater. Alan Rickman’s performance was wonderful and his voice carried strong and clear and I didn’t miss hardly a word he said (fortunately for me his voice falls in the range I can hear quite well). Unfortunately for me, Ms. Rabe’s voice is in that tonal range that I have lost and I missed a lot of her lines which from the reaction in the theater were some of the funniest. But the performance and the character that surprised me the most was that of Hamish Linklater. His performance had a depth that kept up with Mr. Rickman’s, particularly in the second act.
As for the play, well, I should probably give it another viewing before I pass judgment, but what the hell, I’ll pass judgment anyway. The play really comes into its own in the second act. When the setting changes to Leonard’s apartment, the tone of the play changes and we get beyond the witty veneer of pseudo-critique that goes on in Kate’s apartment which is all style but not much soul. The set for Leonard’s apartment made me want to crawl on stage and explore the books, knickknacks and papers, snuggle into a corner and read. It personified the more complex internal life of the writer (BTW my BFA is in set design, I leave theaters humming the scenery). In Leonard’s apartment we come to know the reality of Leonard’s life and of Martin’s and of all writers/artists — being an artist is more than just producing the work by yourself in a small room, its having the confidence to then put that work out into the cold, harsh world and enduring all the gyrations and politics that come along with that. Easy to say, but hard to do. This is the point in the play where Alan Rickman, as an actor, bites into the character and show us who he is, where he’s been and what has shaped him. We forget its “Rickman, the Actor,” and feel for Leonard, the artist and man and how he is coping with his life. Talent and technique – the two “t’s” of acting. This act is also where Linklater shines as the personification of young, insecure talent.
To be honest, I still don’t know what it was that got Kate into Leonard’s bed (I told you not to read until you saw the play, now you’ve ruined it for yourself). Granted, all Leonard would have to say is “hello” to get me – heck, who am I kidding, he could say “get the hell out of my face” and I would follow him anywhere… but again I digress into my own little fantasy world. I still don’t understand how or why Kate’s mind was changed about a man she considered loutish at best. Both Kate and Izzy sleep with Leonard (not that I blame them), leaving me with the impression that Ms. Rebeck believes female writers must use sex to get their work recognized. Is that what women have to do in this day and age to get their work out there? It would have been an interesting, albeit a different play, if the Martin character was female. Would the quality of her writing have been sufficient to entice Leonard to help “Martine” without the sexual undertones? Like I said, I missed a good bit of what went on so I may be way off the mark here. Bottom line is I’m going to have to see this play again (I’m collecting funds to travel back NYC – feel free to contribute) or get a copy of the play once it is available (probably the more sensible thing to do).
Here are a few more snaps. I got the one of Jim Belushi by mistake. Just as I was about to take AR’s photo, someone said “Great show tonight” and he turned to shake hands and I got this:
Rickman and Belushi 12/8/11 Seminar
BTW – I did exchange a few words other than thank you with teh man. When he had finished, and people were beginning to disperse, he asked “did I get everyone” – which was, I thought, very kind of him, and I piped up “I think so, but you can sign mine again, if you’d like “ which was met with a smile and a “no that’s alright” as he ran for his car… Okay – so it wasn’t witty repartee but I did manage to say something rather than standing and grunting. I consider that an accomplishment.
Hamish Linklater 12/8/11 Seminar
Alan Rickman 12/8/11 Signing