Wednesday September 13, 1995

     Jeff Seymour's "Rave Review" is a jaunty, amusing dark comedy about a local little-theater director who goes to Faustian lengths to ensure that a crucial production succeeds at the box office.
     Founder of the now-defunct Gnu Theater in North Hollywood, Seymour makes an exceptionally graceful film debut for a man of the theater. There may be many characters and lots of talk, but his film has an easy cinematic flow. The entire project has an engaging, effortless quality and a winning lack of pretension.
     When two stars in his current production (Ed Begley Jr., Joe Spano) take off to appear in a movie shooting in Spain, the director (Seymour) is confronted with plummeting business because the audience isn't buying understudies replacing well-known actors.
     He lands the rights to an important Broadway play only to have to accept a loan from an acquaintance (John MacKenzie), now a big Hollywood director, under perverse conditions: If the play's a hit, he owes nothing on a $20,000 loan; if it flops, he has to pay $30,000 back. No wonder the director becomes determined that the review in The Times be nothing less than a rave.
     The serious question Seymour poses is one of values: He acknowledges the fierce economic realities of sustaining live drama in Los Angeles and the undeniable power wielded by critics on the fate of little theater productions. "Rave Review" celebrates the artistic fulfillment that is far more possible in theater for most actors, writers and directors than it is in films or TV.
     Seymour has assembled an ensemble cast of 40, including himself. Under his direction everyone plays for the camera rather than as if he or she were on stage. The director's veteran actor landlord (Len Lesser) reminds him that "the reward is in the work."


Rave Review, 1995. Unrated. A Gnu Films/Bergman Lustig Productions presentation. Writer-director Jeff Seymour. Producers Seymour, Ram Bergman, Dana Lustig. Executive producers Marcy Lafferty Shatner, William T. Elston, Dawn Tilman. Cinematographer Richard Crudo. Editor Terry Kelly. Costumes Kristen Anacker. Music Amotz Plessner,CQ Tal Bergman. Production designer John Marshall. Set decorator Alex L. Carle. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. Jeff Seymour as Steve Maletti. Carmen Argenziano as Abe Weinstein. Ed Begley Jr. as Bert. Robert Costanzo as Peter.