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‘Seminar’ at Beck delights with writers’ woes

Seminar at Beck Center for the Arts

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Four young writers battle it out with a boorish instructor in the Beck Center for the Arts’ production of Theresa Rebeck’s “Seminar”, playing in the Studio Theater now through June 29, 2014. Directed by Donald Carrier, this new comedy is a fun romp through a world of intellectual chaos.

Theresa Rebeck's 'Seminar' at the Beck Center for the Arts - Knox, Roper and Gombas
Theresa Rebeck's 'Seminar' at the Beck Center for the Arts - Knox, Roper and GombasPat Miller
Seminar at Beck Center
Seminar at Beck CenterBeck Center for the Arts

When four aspiring novelists hire Leonard (played by Scott Plate) for a fee of $5,000.00 each to teach a private writing course, they quickly find themselves stunned by his arrogance, condescension and penchant for picking on everything and everyone. The multi-week course takes place in the expansive New York apartment of Kate (played by Lara Knox), the quirky and exasperated host. Also in the class are the geeky intellectual Douglas (played by Brian Gale), the sexy free spirit Izzy (played by Aily Roper) and the slightly-brooding “average Joe” Martin (played by Andrew Gombas). Add alcohol along with Leonard’s constant poking of the proverbial beehive and you get a mix of wit, wisdom and angst that hits the mark with the right amount of laughter.

Watching the characters struggle through their individual creative processes is both enlightening and entertaining. Kate is a slightly neurotic but very likeable and smart woman who’s been working on the same story for 6 years. Knox’s portrayal makes her sympathetic and worth rooting for.

Leonard is an overbearing bully who wants everyone to know his greatness. Plate’s presentation is strong and does a good job of also giving a weird charisma to the in-your-face character.

Izzy is a bit of a nympho but clearly has a brain and is willing to use it. Roper’s performance gives her an effervescence and also a little substance.

Douglas is a nerdy name-dropper who knows all the right people. Gale’s version of him also shows a yearning for legitimacy in the world of fiction writing.

Martin is a brilliant writer who’s afraid to show his own work. Gombas’ depiction lets us see the inner turmoil of a writer’s soul.

Carrier’s direction has created a well-working ensemble within a cozy setting. Scenic designer Cameron Caley Michalak has put together a playing space that is comfortable and inviting. Lighting designer Trad A. Burns and sound designer Cyrus O. Tayler have layered in realistic and natural design elements that don’t distract from the real-world setting.

Although a bit wordy at times, the production is well-paced and well-played. Running a little over an hour and a half with no intermission, “Seminar” is definitely not a snoozer, as the whimsy of the back-and-forth between the teacher and the students is a bit like an exciting sporting event for the brain.

Seminar” plays now through June 29, 2014 at the Beck Center for the Arts. Tickets can be purchased online at beckcenter.org or by calling Customer Service at 216-521-2540.

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