St. Albert Gazette Reviewed by Anna Borowiecki 08/18/11 4.5 starts out of 5
Beauty is truly in the eyes of the beholder.
In "The Seminar", a brilliant attack on cosmetic surgery and the extraordinary lengths people go to alter themselves, four black-haired clones push the boundaries of beauty and ugliness. Hidden behind repulsive frozen faces wrapped in plastic and implanted with big, artificial butts, they proclaim, "My body is scientifically successful. I am the new perfect." The one hour production is set up like a seminar where they try to convince the audience to resculpt their bodies. After all, who wants to hang around ugly people? Former St. Albert Children's Theatre instructor Candice Fiorentino is the pushy frontman selling the transformation. Infused with a fiery religious fervour of converting uglies to beauties, she tosses out catchphrases such as: "Choose freedom." "Choose success." "Pretty people have more fun."
Melissa Heagy is a delight as the mad robotic scientist that surgically rebuilds an entire body in an hour. Brianne Jang completely charms as the ditsy 13-year-old that embraces plastic surgery for peer acceptance, and SACT instructor Sara Vickruck completes the quartet as the woman that wins a gift pack for a complete rebuild. Special kudos to Vickruck, who also wrote the script along with Jang, and as director keeps the riveting action clipping along.
While cosmetic surgery has a place in our pop culture society, Poiema Productions sets out to skewer the insanity of extremes and holds up a telling mirror to our faces.
Plank Magazine, Victoria Reviewed by Jonathon Narvey 09/11/11
The Seminar: Choose This Show! The Seminar is a funny play. It’s also more than a little creepy – which makes the funny bits all the better. It’s a play with a none-too-subtle message about our obsession with beauty, but the talented cast pulls it off in an entertaining way without being preachy.
In a comic take on the makeover and self-improvement presentations, we are introduced to a team of “beauty experts” intent on sharing their effective (yet grisly) beautification process with the world. Plastic masks and an over-the-top application of cosmetics give the “seminar presenters” (actors Candice Fiorentino, Melissa Heagy, Brianne Jang and Sara Vickruck) an off-putting look inspired by high fashion yet taken to an eerie-looking extreme.
“Choose to change!” the singing, dancing, robotic-swiveling cast shout. “Don’t let your genetics define who you are! Ugly is a choice!” They take turns mocking ugly people and preaching the gospel of plastic beauty. Pretty soon, those lines become quite catchy. Then the plot becomes clear: one member of the audience will be transformed on stage into a glamazon, complete with leg extensions, butt implants, a hair transplant and other surgical wonders.
Great acting by a talented cast very effectively pulls in the audience, to the point where you’re not quite sure at first what is spontaneous participation and what is truly part of the performance. That makes the trauma of the “beauty treatment” all the more unnerving – and engaging.
It’s an ensemble production and the cast members really do complement each other’s styles. They’re also complicated characters; Brianne Jang will alternately preach to the audience with the fierce zeal of a convert, only to descend at times into gooey cuteness.
Great performances all around and an entertaining story told by quirky characters makes this a perfect show to kick off your Fringe-ing.
Edmonton Journal Reviewed by Iain Illich 08/14/11 4 stars out of 5
What a strange, strange play.
A troupe of three oddly dressed young women, all covered with excessive makeup and wearing clear plastic partial face masks, parade around the stage and into the audience, strutting their artificially enhanced behinds while belting out propaganda-style phrases like “Ugly is a choice!” and “Choose to change!”
They are here to present a seminar — which you, as an audience member, have opted to attend — that is selling beauty by any means possible. You can either opt for a complete full-body makeover, like the three women themselves are sporting, or choose the incremental route of The Seminar’s line of infomercial beauty products. The gist: Why aren’t you getting a promotion, a raise, the girl of your dreams? Because you’re ugly, stupid! So stop being ugly and start being pretty!
It’s the by-any-means-possible part that gets a bit spooky as the play progresses. There’s a creepy Stepford quality to their idea of beauty, a cartoonish ideal that’s more grotesque than attractive. But the point is made. An obsession with beauty is a slippery slope, and it distorts our own ability to see beauty clearly. On the surface, it seems nuts, but how many terrible tans do you see while wandering the Fringe grounds?
Use of multimedia was excellent, the set was simple but well-conceived, and the writing was sharp, quirky and often hilarious.
The repetition became a bit much after awhile, and the sales pitches got tired quickly. It rang true of the infomercial style, but was still overdone. Also, if you’re not big on audience participation, stay away. The performers can and will mock anyone’s appearance as part of the shtick.
Culture Vulture, Victoria Reviewed by Chris Felling 08/27/11
Remember that rubbery woman they poured out of her coffin in Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil”? Her remains have apparently recongealed into this show and I could not be happier. Like more and more Fringe shows these days, The Seminar is flashy and slick. The choreography is hypnotically polished, the film looks professional, and the butts? Expertly stuffed. Sure, the idea of a fake motivational seminar is nothing new and plastic surgery is still an easy target, but the when so much is put into the spectacle of it all you’ll quickly choose to change your mind. Host 1 (Candace Fiorentino) deserves special mention for getting the audience chanting and chatting effortlessly. Don’t think it’s cheeky, though. The Seminar is dark. Really dark. Masks, makeup and—what else?— power tools always make things disturbing. Gooey sound effects help too. Poiema Productions goes wonderfully off the deep end here, and you should go see.