Steve Seabrook: Better Than You
nytheatre.com review by Jack Hanley
August 18, 2012
I'm sure most of us are familiar, for better or worse, with the motivational speaker. No, I'm not talking about Cicero or Martin Luther King. I'm talking about the likes of Tony Robbins or Suze Orman. Personally, I've never understood the appeal of their expensive programs and books with their catchpenny titles such as Date with Destiny or The Courage to Be Rich.
But writer and performer Kurt Bodden must get the appeal, because he mines it for a fortune of comedic gold with his fictional life-coach Steve Seabrook. His character is a kind of second rate Tony Robbins who guides us through a weekend retreat of self-improvement workshops. Bodden is terrific is his role. He has the self-important grin, the affected sincerity, and employs contorted logic that usually ends with a backhanded compliment or a twisted affirmation you couldn't find in a fortune cookie. Word play is his game, and he plays it well.
The piece avoids sliding into a simple sketch comedy routine. When the members of the retreat are on break we watch Seabrook chat and awkwardly flirt with the unseen lighting guy. In these scenes a more vulnerable Seabrook is revealed. He talks about what attracted him to the profession, his marketing strategies, and his greatest inspiration The Wizard of Oz. What we see is a lonely man.
It is by this thoughtful transitional device, and Mark Kenward's attentive direction, that a fuller character develops. However, Seabrook is still too much the joke of the story. With further development of the piece a more interesting, more intriguing character and story could emerge.
As the piece stands, it is a sharp and delightfully bizarre satire of the motivational speaker market. So spend the weekend for an hour with Steve Seabrook and find out how, as he says, you can live vicariously through you.