A Seminar On Time Travel

Last night, January 24, 2012, I had the opportunity to see Theresa Rebeck‘s play Seminar at the Golden Theatre on Broadway.  How I ended up there is another story for another blog post.  What I want to write about today, as you probably surmised from the title of the post, is Time Travel.

My first recollection of being truly interested in time travel was when an elementary school teacher gave me a book called Building Blocks by Cynthia Voigt.  From the inside flap:

 Brann Connell, a twelve-year-old boy who believes his father is a “loser,” travels back in time thirty years and learns something about his father as a little boy. In a single mystifying day of adventure, Brann learns that fate is something both to guide and accept.

Obviously from the description this is not really a science fiction book, but rather a book that explores the relationships involved in time travel.  Throw in a flux capacitor (Building Blocks was published in 1984; Back to the Future was released in 1985) and you now have a 9-year-old hooked on the notion of time travel for the rest of her life.

So what does all of this have to do with a 90-minute play in which “four aspiring young novelists sign up for private writing classes with Leonard (Alan Rickman), an international literary figure. Under his recklessly brilliant and unorthodox instruction, some thrive and others flounder, alliances are made and broken, sex is used as a weapon and hearts are unmoored. The wordplay is not the only thing that turns vicious as innocence collides with experience in this biting new comedy.”?  Actually quite a bit.

Before I attended, I took the time to read a few reviews.  Although from my perspective I don’t feel the following is a spoiler, some of you might, so if you plan on seeing this play (NOTE TO SELF: insert subliminal message here telling everyone to see the play) here is your chance to run away.  Even the most substantive (and critical) of the reviews failed to note that, in my opinion, one of the main themes of Seminar is that Leonard is effectively transported in time by his contact with one of his students, meeting a younger version of himself.  He has an opporunity to do what many of us often fantasize about (or is it just me?):  to go back in time and warn his young self at a critical moment to turn left instead of right.  Likewise the student with whom he identifies (see how skillfully I avoid the spoiler?) has a chance to see into the future, to hear from Leonard every twist and turn his life may take.  The entire rest of the play, although completely necessary and quite entertaining, was simply the time machine.

Read the reviews (or don’t).  Go for the comedy.  Go for the sex.  Go for the literary references.  But most importantly, go for the time travel!


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