Recommended*** Lately, Chicago is playing host to many new productions in our smaller theaters. Some of them have been a little less than expected from the troupes that are presenting them and some are very sit-com styled, so one thinks they are watching an extension of one of the TV shows they watch on a regular basis. I am happy to say that Haven Theatre Company has a Chicago premiere that is funny and thought provoking. Theresa Rebeck’s comical “Seminar” is now on the stage at Theater Wit in Theater number three.
The word Seminar has different meanings for some, but in this particular story, we have four would be writers who are taking a seminar/class with a “noted” writer, Leonard ( deftly handled by Tom Hickey). It is his job to be their mentor and show them what they are doing both wrong and right in their writing. He is an International figure in this industry and for his services each has paid him $5,000.
The four students are Kate ( the lovely Mary Williamson) who truly wants to be a writer at any cost. It is her apartments ( a rent controlled, stunningly beautiful Manhattan Apartment. The set designed by Joanne Iwanicka is divine in every way and is flexible when we watch the conversion to another apartment in the final scene. WOW! I was impressed ( as was the opening night audience). The other characters, all would be writers, are Martin ( a powerful portrayal by Keith Neagle) who has invested his last dollar into this class. He ends up moving in with Kate ( as she has a huge apartment) as does Izzy, a young writer who is adventurous in her sexual desires ( the sultry Atra Asdou). The fourth writer is Douglas ( Carl Lindberg) who is a live at home type that name drops and has some relatives of importance.
As we meet the characters, we get the feeling as to who each might be and what their motives are. We also see that their Mentor is straight out honest with them about what they write about and how they go about doing same. Some of the characters relate to each others needs, but for the most part, each of the characters is concerned with what THEY want, not what the others should get. This is truly well scripted, but if you are not into writing and writers, this may not be your “cup of tea”. There is a great deal of word-play as we learn more about our students and their teacher- as we do, we also see the pain that has been set on them and how they plan their own revenge, which may not be as sweet as it sets out to be.
There are some interesting changes that take place during this one hour and forty minutes ( NO INTERMISSION) of story telling and a few surprises as we reach the final scene which takes place in Leonard’s apartment/office. Director Marti Lyons uses her set and her actors as a Chess Master would his/her pieces, with each move, large and or small having importance to the outcome of the game. Yes, this play is a sort of game- a cat and mouse game between the actors and their characters as each plays his or her hand to win the prize. Watching it made the almost two hours seem much shorter and I was glad that there was no intermission break- it would have been harmful to the presentation.
This is the first year for this company and based on what they have shown us to date, haven Theatre Company is one that we will see grow in the years to come. Congrats on bringing us some fine work. If the subject matter was for a larger audience I would have given this a higher rating (****), and I strongly suggest anyone who enjoys a well written play with solid acting get to Theater Wit located at 1229 West Belmont in Chicago to see this one.
Thursdays 9 p.m.
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 8 p.m.
Sundays 2 p.m.
Tickets are $32 ( $25 for Seniors/Students and Industry) and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at 773-975-8150 or online at www.haventheatrechicago.com. Seats are General Admission, so it is suggested to arrive early for the best seating.
Street parking is available ( some metered, some not) and valet parking is available. Coopers, across the street offers diners free parking as well.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Seminar”