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But Charlie is white, and that is his problem. While he is qualified to go to Yale, he is deferred by the University's highly selective admissions Office. His best friend, an inferior student who is biracial has been accepted. What follows is an intense, tart-tongued debate about meritocracy, hypocrisy and the universal wishes of all parents to do what they think is best for their child. The subject is of course loaded.
Sherri Rosen-Mason, Charlie's mother (an excellent performance by Meg Gibson), is Admissions Director at Charlie's school where she is tasked with increasing the percentage of minorities. Her responsibilities include overseeing the school's brochure and actively recruiting bright kids of color or nationality other than American. Her patience is tested by Roberta (Sarah Marshall, for whom this endearingly dotty sort of character is a specialty). Though Roberta, who has been part of the school for decades, has no political agenda she says that she does not look at the students as white or black; she just thinks of them as who they are— individuals. Good for her! It helps that her clothing designed by Kathleen Geldard, is suitably unattractive, what a not-well dressed academic would wear.
Enter Ginnie Peters (Marni Penning) mother of Charlie's best friend. She is ecstatic because her son did get in to Yale. It falls to her character, though white, to voice the inequities forced on blacks. She assumes her son was accepted on merit rather than race. That's another side of the playwright's presentation of the issues involved in college acceptances.
Charlie's father, Bill Mason (Kevin Kilner) has another take on what's going on. "If there are going to be new voices at the table, someone has to stand up and offer someone else his seat." And that "someone else" could also mean letting women get into the pipeline for post-college leadership positions.
Scenic designer Caite Hevner has placed a table front and center that doubles as Sherri's workplace and where the family eats, drinks and argues.
The situation comes to a crescendo when Charlie confronts his parents. "What do you want from me?" he asks his mother."Spare me your guilty white bull shit." And that's just the beginning of his diatribe, a highly dramatic and dynamic monologue that is never short of eloquently presented issues laced with some rich zingers. "You want things to look different but you don't want them to be different" summarizes his position.
Admissions a passionate exploration of a sensitive subject deserves to have a very successful future. Harmon's earlier play, Bad Jews, was a huge success here and elsewhere. Admissions should do as well if not better. New York premieres of both have been reviewed at Curtainup (see Admissioons and Bad Jews)
Admissions by Josh Harmon
Director, Mike Donahue
Cast: Meg Gibson (Sherri Rosen-Mason); Sarah Marshall (Roberta); Marni Penning (Ginnie Peters); Kevin Kilner (Bill Mason); Ephraim Birney (Charlie Mason)
Scenic Designer, Caite Hevner
Costume Designer, Kathleen Geldard
Lighting Designer, Amith Chandrashaker
Running time: 100 minutes, no intermission; Studio Theatre, STUDIOTHEATRE.ORG, January 16 - February 17, 2019.
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