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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Review: Scott McGowan WOWS in ‘Seminar’ at WTC

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The Women's Theater based in Parsippany just ended a two-weekend run of “Seminar" by Theresa Rebeck. The play is a fast paced (90 minutes with no intermission) thinking man’s comedy neatly directed by the multi-talented Patricia Durante. This is not a fluffy sex comedy, well… sex does play a big part in the story. It concerns four young would-be novelists; Kate, Martin, Douglas, and Izzy and their tutor, Leonard, an elitist ex-novelist with international literary fame. Leonard has not written for some time, finding himself resorting to private tutorials for survival. In this case, each of the four students paid Leonard $5,000 for a ten-week writing seminar to be held in Kate's rent controlled Upper West Side New York apartment. Each see this class as the pathway to writing the next great American novel, and the fame and fortune that would follow.

Leonard (Scott McGowan) may be a fine novelist, but his method of teaching in this seminar format is not only unorthodox it borders on sadistic. His approach is to provide the minimum of encouragement via almost constant sarcastic and cynical comments about their writing ability (or lack of). He dismisses, for example, Kate’s six-year writing effort inspired by Jane Austen after reading only the first five words of her story. The result is that the sessions turn vicious with sex used as a weapon.

The four students are nicely cast: Tara Henderson is excellent as Kate, a liberal feminist leading a privileged life. She has the more challenging role of the two women; Juliet Perrell McCarthy is Izzy. She is a sexually free young woman who’s only interested is writing for the money. She seduces all three men, or is it the other way around? This the smallest part, but the weapon of sex is important to the plot and she excels at keeping all three men interested. Her ”time” with Douglas and Leonard is purely due to their literary contacts; Lucas Turner nicely portrays the rather bland Douglas who Leonard describes as "a literary whore" getting by on his name and connections. His uncle is a well-known writer, Douglas’s number one goal is to bed Izzy. The last of the four is Scott Tomjack impressive in the key role of the broke and homeless Martin who is shy about anyone reading his writings whom Leonard cruelly calls ‘a p***y.’ He strays with Izzy but his heart belongs to Kate. In turn, Kate strays with Leonard, but Martin ‘holds the key to her heart.’

22449719_1575665439121109_1876776285139985641_nLast in this cast list is Scott McGowan… marvelous in this star-turn. He beautifully presents the brilliant but cynical Leonard. We have had the pleasure of seeing Scott in many roles in the last few years, at Dreamcatcher in Summit where he is a leading member, and at the Bickford (in the musicals ‘Mack and Mabel’ and ’I Do, I Do’). All fine, memorable performances, but his Leonard is outstanding, e.g. award level.

patriciaOutstanding, impressive and spot-on are just three words to describe the efforts of the ring master (director) in delivering this challenging thought provoking play. Patricia Durante continues to delight audiences whether as a director or professional actress/singer. WTC regulars will remember her stand-out performance in ‘Always…Patsy Cline.’

Unfortunately, due to schedule conflicts, we were only able to see the final performance of this dark comedy. Since we can’t urge you to see the now closed play, we can suggest that you consider attending the WTC’s next production ‘Title of Show.’ It is a wonderful little musical about two struggling wannabe musical writers. It will be directed by Lauren Moran Mills. The play dates are March 9-18.

barbaraThe Women’s Theater Company is led by a New Jersey treasure Barbara Krajkowski, the artistic director. She has been producing thoughtful, engaging plays for 50 years! Obviously, she started at age five! The associate artistic director, as we have mentioned, is a major talent: director, actress and singer, Patricia Durante.

The creative team included: Erica E. Conrad stage manager; Todd Mills set construction and lighting; Stephanie Shulman scenic artist; Frances Harrison costume designer; Larry Wilbur sound; plus, Cyndi Jemas and Alyssa Jemas backstage assistants.

Reviewed by Rick Busciglio   Sunday October 22, 2017

Visit: www.womenstheater,org

photo (by Lauren Moran Mills)

l-r Lucas Turner, Tara Henderson, Scott McGowan*, Juliet Perrell McCarthy, Scott Tomjack

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