2nd Story Theatre's current upstage show is the one act, 85 minute long, "Seminar" by Theresa Rebeck. In this smart, sexy, acerbic and provocative comedy, four aspiring young novelists sign up for private writing classes with a renowned literary figure that cost $5000. Under his recklessly brilliant instruction some thrive and others flounder, sex is used as a weapon, hearts are broken, and lives are changed forever. The original in the round set design is back for this show. Director Pat Hegnauer picks five marvelous performers to play these roles and elicits incredible comic performances from them. Even though the show is comic there are several electrifying scenes in it.
Pat blocks the show wonderfully, using arm chairs and sofas on the set. Playing Leonard, the literary figure, who is an egotistical martinet is Ed Shea. He commands the stage in this role as he critiques each of the four writers. Leonard is also a sexist and abusive curmudgeon as he runs roughshod over the others. Some of the standout moments are when he explains they are like feral cats and would tear each other apart. There are surprising twists and turns as Leonard and the students interact with each other. Sometimes he goes off on tangents about his travels to Africa while ripping apart Kate's paper about Jane Austin. It took her six years to write it and when she becomes upset, she eats Haagen Daas ice cream and potato chips. Kate is well played by Erin Elliott who captures the feminist aura of the character whose family owns the apartment, paying $800 a month for it. Kate went to Bennington College, is well educated and defensive about her writing. The character develops a back bone later on and the change is surprising and amazing. James Lucey does a topnotch job as the bombastic, name dropping, Douglas whom Leonard calls a whore about his limited fiction writing ability but is perfect for Hollywood. Douglas is well connected with a famous uncle and he spills a hidden secret about Leonard's past that shocks the others.
Talia Montenegro delivers a strong performance as the opportunistic and sexy, Izzy. She tells the others that they need each other to succeed at writing. Izzy's paper is highly admired by Leonard and she will do anything to get ahead in the writing game. A surprising secret about her is revealed later in the show. Another marvelous performance is by Ara Boghigian as Martin,the angry young man who is down on his luck. He displays the resentment and defensiveness at being less privileged than the others. Martin explodes when Leonard calls him a pussy as a way to finally get Martin to reveal his paper to the class. An explosive confrontation occurs when Leonard finally reads Martin's paper. Will Martin live up to the high standards Leonard has demanded or not? Ara and Ed's talents come to the fore in the last scene when the audience finds out what happens to one and all. So for a look at a contemporary comic play, be sure to catch "Seminar" at 2nd Story Theatre for some outstanding acting and amazing nuanced performances.