It was not long ago that I was lucky enough to see an outstanding play at San Francisco Playhouse. It was a performance which has already gained remarkable popularity at Broadway. It was originally staged as Seminar, written by Theresa Rebeck and directed by Amy Glazer in San Francisco. The seat I took was quite a comfortable one and let me enjoy the play in full. The view was perfect, and the same can be said about the sound. The ticket was purchased at an affordable price. Besides, I was accompanied by a friend of mine, a great theatre lover, who, in fact, recommended this play to me as something quite worthwhile seeing. It was a great pleasure to enjoy the performance and discuss it with somebody who knows very well what it is all about during the interval.
In general, the majority of the audience present at the play that evening was aged between twenty-five and forty. It is, probably, easy to explain this phenomenon. On the one hand, there were age limitations, and therefore, very young theatre lovers had no chance of seeing this theatre piece, while for the older people and those who are much older than forty, the content of the play may have appeared to be too explicit and a little bit too free. Well, creative may be the right word to describe it. Too much has been mingled in the play, and for people who are rather used to theatre in its classical representation, it all may turn out to be unnecessarily complex and carrying no information. It is hard to say whether one can speak of gender differences. Both males and females seemed to be equally represented among the audience. Moreover, there was a significant number of couples who came to see the play together. Thus, to a certain degree, one can speak about the play as the one which draws the attention of young families or couples who are only planning to become ones.
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However, before getting deeper into the discussion of the performance, it is worthwhile mentioning a few facts regarding its history which may help everybody to understand it better and easier. The play was originally staged in New York at John Golden Theatre in 2011. This is a typical comedy, and it displays modern New York; thus, all the events of the performance occur there. The whole play displays a number of writing seminars. It was originally written in English, and its first stage version was in English as well. Initially, it was Alan Rickman who played the main character – Leonard. He was, however, replaced by Jeff Goldblum in April 2012. The music for the play was written by John Gromada.
The play has got five major characters. The most important one is Leonard who is a writer with serious and dramatic experience, and he agrees to provide his students with a ten-week-long writing seminar. The cost of the latter is 500 USD per week for each of the participants; thus, for the ten weeks each of them paid 5 thousand dollars to their instructor. Among the students, there is Martin who is a rather poor writer that worries not only about his financial state, but also about the quality of his works. He hesitates to show his writing to anybody. There is also Douglas, a close relative of a Harvard playwright who is quite well known. He seems to have talent for writing; however, he is often criticized by his colleagues. The third student is Izzy who is really a great writer and a bright personality that draws attention to her character from the very beginning of the play’s conflict. The forth participant is Kate whose writing is not bad; however it does not seem to interest anybody. It is, by the way, worthwhile mentioning, that it is Kate’s apartment where the events take place.
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For the major part of the play, it seems that parody is its main motive. The curtain raises, and one can see the four participants ready for their first seminar. They have gathered in Kate’s West Side apartment. Leonard is yet to come, but the four do not lose their time: they are exchanging barbs about each other’s pretensions. And each of them, no doubt, is unique and very special in his or her pretensions, and the only one who has got the right for them unlike the others. In the very beginning of the play, the audience gets to know Douglas in all his beauty speculating on the “interiority” and “exteriority” of a writers’ colony where he stayed for a number of months, and therefore, now speaks of it as of something very ordinary. Oh, what word combinations are there in the air! However, a few seconds later Leonard appears and speaks in such terms that everybody loses track of his thoughts in a very short period of time. Besides, he knows it all. He used to be a novelist of great fame, but currently he is an editor. He is also a chronicler of life in third world countries, among which there are Moldova and Somalia. He is a nihilist, and this quality is hardly bearable for the majority of people.
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However, there is not only a scientific-like talk to the play, not only the parody of the fives and ambitions of the writers. There is also a romance. Deep, and, to a certain degree, tragic romance is another storyline which goes through the entire work.
The performance was warmly accepted by the critics. It was Rooney who in his article for The Hollywood Reporter wrote that he found the play to be “tight, witty, and consistently entertaining” (Rooney, n. pag.). Brantley in his review for The New York Times was somewhat critical of certain elements, which had, in fact, more to do with the script. However, he underlined his appreciation of the actors’ play and was especially fond of Rickman’s acting (Brantley, n. pag.).