Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

June 19, 2015


New Century Theatre, Northampton, MA
through June 27, 2015
by Barbara Stroup

Four characters in search of success as fiction writers hire a writing guru, bond in various ways (not only literary), and occasionally discuss the meaning of art. “Seminar,” a well-paced play by seasoned playwright Theresa Rebeck, entertains audiences with some effective one-liners and a bit of predictability. This well-acted vehicle opens New Century Theatre’s 25th year, and was received with laughter and appreciation by a nearly full house at opening night.

Keith Langsdale brings a vituperative interpretation to his character of Leonard, the writing coach, embellishing the mean-spirited comments with appropriate physicality. Even when the audience learns its probable origins, the nastiness seems overdrawn. As his critiques assault each writer in turn, the blade becomes even sharper.

Myka Plunkett is engaging as Kate, the light-footed, preppy Bennington graduate and the first writer whose prose suffers Leonard’s attack. The lancing continues, until there is finally some hope that good art might exist among these writers. The surprise at the end comes from whose art “wins.” In the same scene, Kate is unnecessarily diminished. How Rebeck treats both female characters is a disappointment.

The use of a folk harp for sound, both live and recorded, enhances the production aurally, as did the use of multiple recorded speeches during the play’s only and most significant stage change. Often, the audience finds itself watching Langsdale’s back as he deliveres significant speeches, thanks either to direction or to set design. Somewhat buried in this script is some insights about creativity and the courage it takes, a theme worth addressing that makes the play worth watching.