Bill Simmons stood out in the Phoenix Theatre's new production of Seminar, Theresa Rebeck’s story of a washed-up writer and the students he torments during an expensive a writing seminar. Simmons was backed by a tight ensemble of four, consisting of Lauren Briggeman, Neal Eggeson, Samuel Fain and Lisa Ermel. Each of the four students represents a different archetypal student — the rich and privileged girl, the nepotism-reliant boy, the talented, middle-class no-name and the slut.
Though it was entertaining and funny to watch destructive relationships build and crumble, the play felt lightweight in the end, particularly after a trite, over-emphasized ending tied a neat bow on the play's under-developed student-teacher relationships.
That said, Simmons expertly evoked sympathy and abhorrence as Leonard, the psychotic, drugged-out, self-important writing teacher. He captured the nuances of his character, grounding him in a deep sense of failure and over-compensation. Alone, he was worth the cost of a ticket, but the deal was sweetened by a well-rounded ensemble of young actors.Through Nov. 25 at Phoenix Theatre