Posts Tagged ‘Alexander Strain’

Seminar: Sign Up Now—Theatre

February 25, 2014

Just as “Inside Llewyn Davis” was a cautionary tale for those contemplating a career as a singer, the Bethesda Round House Theatre’s production, “Seminar,” puts the fear of God into those thinking they might be the next great novelist. Written by Theresa Rebeck and sharply directed by Jerry Whiddon, “Seminar” is a dark, but often funny look at the creative process and those who think they have the “gift.”

Seminar “Seminar” opens with a group of four 20-something writers gathering in a NYC apartment for a writing seminar with renowned novelist, Leonard (Marty Lodge). As we first meet them, save for Izzy (Laura C. Harris), none of them seem terribly likeable–all having that stereotypical NYC pseudo-intellectual aura about them. But as we get to know them, we begin to see that each really has a ton of insecurities–as writers and as human beings.  This becomes even more apparent when Leonard enters the fray and begins to critique each one’s work.  But Leonard is not without his own problems, coming with his own baggage as well as a mega-chip on his shoulders. What made Leonard the way he is? Do any of these writers have any kind of potential to make it? And just what constitutes success? “Seminar” attempts to address these questions and does so, for the most part, very satisfactorily and entertainingly.

Rebeck knows whereof she speaks. She’s enjoyed success as a playwright and writer for many television series. As the creator of 2013’s “Smash,” she also knows what it’s like to have one’s world upended when things don’t go according to plan. She brings all of this experience to her play, giving “Seminar” a huge dose of reality.

“Seminar” comes with a terrific cast. While all are very good, the standouts in this ensemble are Lodge, Katie deBuys as Kate and Alexander Strain as Martin. deBuys, so wonderful in Woolly Mammoth’s “Stupid F***king Bird” of last season, continues to shine.  It’s in her character’s apartment that the seminars meet and, therefore, she’s in nearly every scene. Her face is able to convey a variety of emotions that can be seen from the most distant seats. When her work is criticized, anyone who’s ever tried to write can identify with her reaction. Strain is terrific as the writer who’s really afraid to put his work out there. He actually fears criticism. His Martin is the member of the group with the most potential and the most psychological problems. The chip on his shoulder rivals that of Leonard’s, which might not be too unusual, since he is the most like Leonard.  Finally there is Marty Lodge. His character stirs the plot and as such he is fantastic. He very realistically portrays someone who has known what it is to have great success, lose it and try to rebuild. His Leonard is cunning, mean-spirited, belligerent and ultimately genuine.

A shout out must be given to James Kronzer’s sets and Ivania Stack’s costumes. The clothes are absolutely spot-on for this group and rarely does one hear applause for a set change as I did the night I was in the theatre.

If you love great acting in a witty, entertaining play, “Seminar” should be on your radar. It runs through March 2, so there is still time to get your ticket.

Round House Theatre, 4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814, Box Office: 240.644.1100

3 ½ nuggets out of 4

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Glengarry Glen Ross: Always Be Closing; Just Be There—Theatre

February 12, 2013

The Round House Theatre’s production of David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross” is a testosterone-filled theatrical experience that should not be missed. Directed by Mitchell Hébert, this play features brilliant performances by all with not one dead minute that allows you to think about plans for the next day. It’s just that great.

Set in 1984, “Glengarry Glen Ross” is the story of Chicago real estate salesmen, scratching to make a living, hunting for sales leads and doing whatever it takes to get those leads. It’s not a pretty picture, but boy, is it fabulous to watch.  The play begins in a Chinese restaurant as we follow three different sets of two salesmen or clients and then the action seamlessly moves to the office. No one seems happy with their lot in life. Selling is hard. The highs of a sale are euphoric, but the downs can be more traumatic…where’s the next sale…who has the good lead…have I lost my mojo?Glengarry Glen Ross

As noted earlier, all the actors give tremendous performances, but Rick Foucheux, Kenyatta Rogers and Alexander  Strain must be singled out for special kudos. Foucheux is no stranger to DC audiences and as Shelly Levene, the down on his luck salesman who needs just one good lead to turn things around, or so he believes, literally reeks of desperation. This is one of Foucheux’s best portrayals ever. Strain’s Richard Roma simply astounds. He masterfully handles Mamet’s dialogue and his inflections are sheer perfection.  Kenyatta Rogers’ character, John Williamson, the sales manager, starts off slowly and we wonder what he’s all about. But once he gets going, watch out. His scenes with Foucheux are especially dynamic.

Mention must be made of James Kronzer’s scenery. The Chinese restaurant is spot-on and when it transforms into the sales office, you will gasp in awe.

When you watch “Glengarry Glen Ross,” you can’t help but think of the other terrific play about salesmen, Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.” Both provide pretty bleak pictures of the salesman’s life.  “Death” looks at the lonely life of the salesman on the road, while “Glengarry” showcases the inner working of the office and its camaraderie and competitiveness. I don’t know why anyone would choose the life of sales, but that life has inspired dramatic masterpieces.

When you exit the Roundhouse’s “Glengarry Glen Ross,” you’ll have witnessed theatre in all its richness. It’s what theatre is all about.

Through March 3

Round House Theatre
4545 East-West Highway
Bethesda, MD 20814


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