Entertainment » Theatre

Admissions

by Joe Siegel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Jan 24, 2020
Deb Martin, Karen Carpenter and Jacob Osborne in "Admissions"
Deb Martin, Karen Carpenter and Jacob Osborne in "Admissions"  

If you are a parent, how far would you be willing to go to secure the best future possible for your child?

That question is raised in the Gamm Theatre's "Admissions," a scathing satire of liberal hypocrisy in the world of higher education.

Sherri Mason (Deb Martin) is the admissions director at Hillcrest, an elite New Hampshire prep school. Her husband Bill (Jim O'Brien) is the school's headmaster.

The Masons are incensed when their son Charlie (Jacob Osborne) gets a deferred admission to Yale, the Ivy League school of his dreams. Rubbing more salt into their wound is the fact that Charlie's black friend Perry was admitted to Yale, despite the fact his academic credentials were nowhere near as stellar as Charlie's.

There's something else which bothers Sherri: Was the Yale admissions department trying to fill a quota of minority students? Was Perry "stealing" the spot which should have gone to her son?

Sherri boasts to her best friend Ginnie (Karen Carpenter) about Hillcrest's demographics. Because of her efforts, blacks now comprise 18 percent of the student body. Ginnie is also Perry's mother, although she is white.

Martin is pitch-perfect as the high-strung and sanctimonious Sherri, who is obsessed with being the savior of an oppressed minority. Sherri is also hell-bent on making sure Charlie gets into the right school.

Wendy Overly ("King Elizabeth") is hilarious as Sherri's long-suffering and befuddled employee Roberta, who is tasked with making sure the Hillcrest admissions catalog has plenty of black students in the pictures.

Osborne has a brilliant scene where Charlie laments the hardships of being a young white man in America. Charlie's harangue is a bit over the top, but it works due to Osborne's crack comic timing. It's a wonderful performance.

O'Brien, most recently seen in "You Got Older," is quite effective as the headstrong father. When Bill lashes out at Charlie for defying him, it's a powerful moment.

Playwright Joshua Harmon's dialogue is witty and perceptive and his characters well-developed.

Director Bryn Boice maintains a sharp sense of pacing, allowing us the chance to really understand what these people are all about.

Set designer Patrick Lynch ("The Night of the Iguana") once again created some fabulous sets. The Masons' upscale kitchen reflects a world of white privilege and people living in an entitled bubble.

"Admissions" works best when it shows how political correctness has contributed to creating divisions in our increasingly polarized society. Was the election of President Donald Trump, perhaps the least politically correct person on the planet, an angry reaction to years of activists telling their fellow Americans what they can and can't say?

"Admissions" suggests that liberals love to boast of how proud they are of "diversity," while their actions end up further stigmatizing those they claim to be helping. Sherri's motives in trying to increase the number of minorities at Hillcrest prove to be self-serving. Is she concerned about minorities getting a decent education, or is she concerned about merely creating the illusion of inclusiveness?

Wouldn't it be better to try to create a more equal society by valuing people for their character and not for their skin color or ethnicity?

"Admissions" is an effective entertainment and also a wonderful exploration of who we are and who we hope to be.


"Admissions" runs through February 9. The Gamm Theatre. 1245 Jefferson Boulevard, Warwick, RI. For more information, go to www.gammtheatre.org.

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.


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