Front Row Reviewers

Voodoo Theatre Company’s Rendition of SEMINAR is a Masterclass in Wit and Wordplay

Front Row Reviewers

Front Row Reviewers

Review by Keolanani Kinghorn, Front Row Reviewers

Pulitzer Prize nominee Theresa Rebeck‘s SEMINAR produced by Voodoo Theatre Company is a brilliantly crafted exploration of the world of writing and the dynamics of power and ego within it. The play takes us on a rollercoaster ride through the lives of four aspiring writers who have enrolled in a private writing seminar led by a caustic and enigmatic literary genius. As the characters clash and collaborate, Rebeck skillfully delves into the complexities of ambition, envy, and the pursuit of artistic excellence.

Martin and Leonard

Leonard, the seminar instructor, portrayed with brutal honesty by Jeremy Minagro, delivers Leonard’s scathing critiques and acerbic one-liners brilliantly, keeping the audience in stitches while simultaneously making them squirm in discomfort. He refers to writers as “feral cats” at one point—so funny. Leonard is an amalgamation of genius and cruelty, and Minagro captures his essence, making him somehow charismatic and detestable. His critiques of the students’ work are brutal, but beneath the harsh exterior, there’s a sense that he might genuinely want to see them succeed in a world that devours the weak.

Luke Harger as Douglas

The characters in SEMINAR are vividly drawn and multifaceted, each bringing their unique personalities and insecurities to the forefront. The ensemble cast of the production I attended give stellar performances, breathing life into these characters and playing off one another beautifully. There is the fiercely ambitious Kate (played by Sage Peacock), who can’t help but push everyone’s buttons, and Martin (played by A.J. Neuschawander), who is quick-witted and also quick to make judgments. There is Douglas (played by Luke Harger), talented yet self-doubting, and, of course, the enigmatic Izzy (played by Elle Shirzad), who will stop at nothing to get her chance as a writer. Each character represents a different facet of the creative journey. It’s a testament to Rebeck’s writing that, despite their flaws, we can’t help but root for these characters and empathize with their struggles. As the characters clash and spar over their work and egos, the audience is treated to an intense and often hilarious exploration of the creative process.

A.J. Neuschawander as Martin

This cast is nothing short of exceptional. When Kate is brutally critiqued by Leonard, it is impossible not to sympathize with her because we have all been there: we have all had a teacher or reviewer brutally humiliate us at one point in our lives., Peacock expresses the pain of rejection as a writer beautifully. Her sentiment that “we [writers/artists] are the soul of culture and people can just be f—- nice to us once in a while,”  was keenly felt. Each of the writers/actors brings depth and nuance to their character, making them feel like real people grappling with their insecurities and aspirations. Their chemistry is palpable, adding an extra layer of authenticity to the interactions on stage.

Sage Peacock as Kate

Director Sterling Allen keeps the pacing and transitions of this play with precision and acumen. The exchanges between the characters are a highlight, and the rapid-fire banter keeps the audience engaged from start to finish. The transitions between scenes are seamless, and the intimate setting of the apartment is utilized to its full potential, making the audience feel like they are eavesdropping on these characters’ lives. Seminar‘s set design and staging were minimalistic yet practical, allowing the audience to focus on the characters and their interactions. The lighting, designed and operated by Sammee Jackman, with reds and blues does a lot of heavy lifting to add to the mood of certain scenes. Music and other sounds (designed by Sterling Allen) and operated by Kelly Branan bring another added nuance to the piece. Over all, I was impressed by the flow under Stage Manager Patrick Kibbie—who is the Founder and Artistic Director of Voodoo Theatre Company and makes it his mission to ensure fairly paid actors in Utah

Elle Shirzad as Izzy

The character dynamics in the Seminar are intriguing; the clash of personalities, egos, and ideologies is entertaining and thought-provoking. As the play unfolds, it becomes evident that SEMINAR is not just about writing; it’s about power, privilege, and the lengths people will go to get ahead. While SEMINAR is undeniably a comedy, it also possesses a darker underbelly, delving into the darker aspects of human nature and the world of competitive writing. It offers a searing critique of the cutthroat nature of the literary world, where talent and ambition can be both a blessing and a curse.

In conclusion, SEMINAR is a thought-provoking, and yes, somewhat vulgar, yet honest and highly entertaining play that offers a glimpse into the world of writers, the tumultuous journey of creative expression, and the often less explored harsh realities. With its sharp wit, compelling characters, and superb performances, Seminar is a play that will leave you pondering its themes long after the final curtain call and is a must-see for anyone who appreciates the power of words.

Jeremy Minagro as Leonard

“Feels good, doesn’t it, spewing the truth…it’s one of the few remaining reasons to get out of bed in the morning. It’s not for everybody, some people are so crippled they can’t stand the truth, but for those of us who partake, nothing else really comes close.”—Leonard

Voodoo Theatre Company presents SEMINAR by Theresa Rebeck.
Trolley Square, Alliance Theater (@alliancetheaterslc), 602 E 500 S Suite E101, Salt Lake City, UT 84102
October 6-8, 13-15 , 2023, matinees and evening shows
Tickets: $20

*CONTENT WARNING: SEMINAR is for mature audiences only. The show involves adult content, sexual themes and situations, and strong language.

Front Row Reviewers

Front Row Reviewers


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