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Theater Review: 'Seminar' -- 2.5 stars

Alan Rickman in “Seminar” (Jeremy Daniel)

Alan Rickman in “Seminar” (Jeremy Daniel) Credit: Alan Rickman in “Seminar” (Jeremy Daniel)

Seminar
2.5 stars

Now here's a real head-scratcher: How does Teresa Rebeck keep getting plays produced?

Sure, she's extremely prolific as a playwright, television writer, screenwriter and novelist. And her upcoming Broadway-themed TV series "Smash" looks like fun.

But her plays aren't very good. Generally, they tend to start out being very funny but then painfully peter out by the end. And "Seminar," a thin 90-minute comedy, is no exception.

It depicts Leonard (Alan Rickman), a formerly famous novelist turned jaded editor, teaching a class for four post-college aspiring writers longing for his approval: Douglas (Jerry O'Connell), whose work is already getting published; Martin (Hamish Linklater), a weakling who is afraid to show his work; Kate (Lily Rabe), a rich gal who's spent years working on the same short story; and Izzy (Hettienne Park), who has a wild and sexy side.

Oh, sure, the initial setup is reminiscent of a sitcom, and Rebeck depends heavily on vulgarities and insults for easy laughs - but it makes for great fun at first. Of course, that has a lot to do with a knockout performance from Rabe, who plays up her character's sexual awkwardness and professional frustration.

The play does not progress well. Douglas and Izzy more or less disappear. Kate's trajectory makes no sense at all. And by the end, it turns into a histrionic confrontation between Leonard and Martin chock-full of plot twists.

Rickman portrays Leonard with a cold, brutally honest personality and tired demeanor. He adds some hints of vulnerability, but this is not too different from his brooding performances in the "Harry Potter" films.

Linklater, who insists on crossing his arms at all times, is surprisingly dull. O'Connell comes off as upbeat and uninteresting. And Park is reduced to pointlessly taking her shirt off in the first five minutes and then being passed around between Linklater and Rickman.


If you go: "Seminar" plays an open run at the Golden Theatre. 252 W. 45th St., 212-239-6200, seminaronbroadway.com.

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