On Saturday night October 19, 2013 the dark comedy Seminar, written by Theresa Rebeck and directed by Theodore Swetz, opened on the main stage of the Unicorn Theatre. The play is a co-production of the Unicorn and the UMKC Theatre. Seminar brings four would-be writers and one teacher together as they explore the future writing prospects of the four unknowns.
Robert Gibby Brand plays the arrogant, pompous and pretentious Leonard. Leonard is a writer whose work has been black-balled by the publishing empire, sending him to the bottom of the writing heap and forcing him to turn to teaching semi-private writing lessons to would-be hacks. He appears to be full of disdain for the writers who paid him $5,000 each to take his class. This is evident as he erupts like Mount Saint Helens after reading only five words of a short story that Kate took six years to write. At first it seems the audience is getting a birds-eye view of bullying, or is it tough love.
Brand shows he is a prodigious dramatic actor as he chastises one writer after another for the words they have written. Like the writers on stage he makes the audience begin to hate him as he has an emotional confrontation with several of the characters. He delivers a rant with the same ease that he does a comedic line.
Chioma Anyanwu returns to the Unicorn where she starred in Mountaintop among other productions. Anyanwu does a very good job with her character of Izzy. She introduces the audience to a slightly light-hearted yet sexually attractive writer who is willing to do about anything to get published.
Martin is played by Logan Black, a third year MFA acting candidate at UMKC. Martin wants to be a writer, but finds every reason possible to not have his work read by Leonard. Black is daunting as he tries to console Kate and then later lashes out at Leonard. Black does one of the best performances of Seminar.
Courtney Salvage is the other student from UMKC in the show. She plays Kate the writer who is continually verbally abused by Leonard. Salvage does an adequate job with the role, but unlike the other members of the troupe at times her dialogue and actions appear to be forced rather than natural.
The other writer on stage is Douglas, a connected unpolished deliverer of words who Leonard thinks has limited potential talent. Douglas is played by Noah Whitmore who delivers his lines with a knack for conveying the humorous lines that break the tension for the audience. Whitmore is making his debut at the Unicorn and previously appeared as Brad in Egads! Theatres production of the Rocky Horror Show.
This show is not suitable for young audiences as there is brief nudity and some profanity. Seminar is a must see because of the powerful performances of Brand and Black. Seminar: Shredding Egos One Semicolon at a Time continues at the Unicorn through November 10.