I have a been a longtime fan of Alan Rickman. The first time I fell in love with his acting was in the film “Truly, Madly, Deeply”. His performance has stood out in my mind ever since, and that was about 20+ years ago. I havecontinued to watch his career progress with roles in “Sense and Sensibility”, the “Harry Potter” films, “Love Actually” and most notably for me, Noel Coward’s “Private Lives” on Broadway over 10 years ago. He garnered a Tony Award nomination for that performance, and it was well deserved.
So, when I found out about his latest role on Broadway in a show called “Seminar”, I was excited and intrigued. Written by Theresa Rebeck, it’s a play about a professor who is teaching a private writing seminar to four aspiring young novelists in a NYC apartment. He is brilliant, as they expect him to be for the 5K they are each paying for the class, but not one of them expects him to be as unpredictable and bullyish as he turns out to be. Under his direction, unusually harsh words are tossed around to describe his four student’s writing styles and potential. Some of them take it better than others. His teaching method is unorthodox and it has an impact on each student. He wants them to write about “beggars in the Sudan”, he calls one student a “whore”, he constantly calls them “pussies” and he berates their writing. They turn it around and try to understand the fact that “he’s so mean because he’s over” but the meaner he gets, and the more be brings sex into the classroom to get his point across, the more murky the situation gets. Relationships ensue, conflict arises, and it is quite a fast-moving 97 minutes (without intermission).
As always Rickman is a true thespian. When he launched into his monologue, I leaned forward in my seat and I could sense the actors on stage taking note, as well. All eyes and ears in the theater were on Rickman at that long-awaited moment.
The supporting cast includes Lily Rabe (The Merchant of Venice), Drama Desk nominee Hamish Linklater (Twelfth Night, The New Adventures of Old Christine), Jerry O’Connell (Jerry Maguire, Stand By Me) and Hettienne Park (Tony Kushner’s The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide…). Each seems well cast and able to fend for themselves in the show. It takes a lot to keep up with the pace of this show, and to keep up with the brilliant Alan Rickman.
Here’s a You Tube video of Rickman and the show, which opens on Sunday.
Seminar is playing at the John Golden Theatre on 252 West 45th Street.
Tickets are $51.50 – $136.50; $29.50 Student Rush (show up two hours before) and can be ordered by phone212-239-6200 or 800-432-7250 or here.
Disclosure: I was provided with a complimentary ticket to faciliate this review, but all opinions are my own.