Theater Review: In New Milford, A ‘Seminar’ Worth Attending
NEW MILFORD — The art, angst and overwrought process of writing is on display to comedic perfection at TheatreWorks New Milford. Under the spot-on direction of Alicia Dempster, Theresa Rebeck's Seminar delivers on the coordination of the "interiority and exteriority" required to become not just a writer but an author.
Four young wannabe writers have chosen to be lambasted by a pretentious, hard skulled writer of the Kerouac genre by employing him, for a handsome sum, to hold seminars in the upscale apartment of one of the students.
During these sessions, Leonard, the bombastic, played by Kevin Sosbe, holds forth on his vast travels and maintains a steady stream of harsh criticism of both the writing and character of his students. Where Leonard is concerned no holds are barred. He is comedic and wince-worthy at the same time.
The four young writers in the making display varying degrees of acumen in their chosen craft. Opening with some serious intellectual mumbo jumbo, Douglas (Jim Dietter) takes the audience on his ego trip. Douglas is the only one in the group who has actually had some success, what with his acceptance into some highly regarding writing programs, praise for his novel, and an uncle in the business.
Izzy (Reesa Roccapriore), on the other hand, has mastered the art of seduction. Her writing is boldly sexual in nature and she backs it up with her own uninhibited sexuality, romping around with every man available.
Izzy's long suffering crush, Martin (Chris Luongo), is shy, repressed and broke. Afraid to reveal his feelings, writing and deepest desires, he is the quintessential suffering artist.
Rounding out this superb cast is Kate (Anya Caravella), a well heeled, Bennington educated, lonely resident of the magnificent apartment she occupies courtesy of her family's ancient rent controlled lease. She is the primary target of Leonard's distain, until she is not.
Playing the pugnacious Leonard, Kevin Sosbe delivers his vitriol with dry wit and facial expressions that make it land with humor. He has nailed this pompous character to a tee. He is not without some perverse charm, as he almost seems an innocent victim of his own unfiltered diatribes.
Yearning and fear are apparent in the skilled performance of Chris Luongo as Martin. This actor's performance is permeated with a very real sense of frustration. He cannot seem to summon the strength to believe in himself. The audience roots for him.
The sultry yet energetic performance of Ms Roccapriore delights in its complete freedom. She aptly portrays her character as a writer who grasps the mediocrity of her talent and chooses to excel by other means. She likes everyone, and everyone genuinely likes her.
It can't be helped.
The pontificating Douglas, as played by Jim Dietter, is subtle and very funny. This actor's total commitment to his character's over examination of the craft of writing and his assessment of his own skills is complete. Dietter is on it every minute he is on stage, and it totally works.
Anya Caravella gives a fabulous portrayal of her Jane Austen obsessed young woman who suffers the slings and arrows of Leonard, as well as careless treatment by other members of this posse. She is hilarious as she faces one insult after another, seeking refuge and comfort in her pantry. When she wises up, Ms Caravella's character easily morphs into the all knowing, confidant woman Kate always was.
The set, designed by Scott Wyshynski, is simply amazing. It is elegant in its unobtrusiveness, and yet perfectly reflects the lives of its inhabitants.
This is theater worth seeing, and writing about.
Don't overthink it. Buy a ticket and go see Seminar within the next few weekends.