Theresa Rebeck’s waspish comedy is a nerdish treat for the New Yorker set. Four desperately young, aspiring writers hire industry veteran Leonard for a series of private coaching lessons in the art of fiction. Leonard (here played by Marty Lodge [and we are so glad to see him again on Round House’s stage], in full command of the rainbow of timbres that he can summon from his baritone) offers his students equal measures of tough-love criticism (more accurately, verbal abuse), access to insider connections, hard-nosed advice (“[fellow] writers are as civilized as feral cats”), and ridiculous ramblings about his various Hemingwayesque adventures. Martin (Alexander Strain sporting eyewear from Jonathan Franzen’s optician) is both the most talented and the most self-censoring of the four, each of them unique in the bundle of self-delusions they carry around.
We forgive the exigencies of theater that call for someone to assess a short story after skimming four or five paragraphs; to spend more time than this would derail the play’s momentum. If the work doesn’t achieve greatness, it does accomplish what it sets out to do, and it’s “good, even,” in Leonard’s hyperjudgmental words.
- Seminar, by Theresa Rebeck, directed by Jerry Whiddon, Round House Theatre, Bethesda, Md.