Playing the diversity card cuts both ways in this “hilarious and provocative drama” by Joshua Harmon, author of “Bad Jews” and “Significant Other.” Sherri Rosen-Mason is head of the admissions department at a New England prep school, fighting to diversify the student body. She and her husband, the school’s Headmaster, have largely succeeded in bringing a stodgy institution into the 21st century. But when their only son sets his sights on an Ivy League university, personal ambition collides with progressive values, with convulsive results. Winner of the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Play.
January 16 – February 2, 2020
by Joshua Harmon
Playing the diversity card cuts both ways in this “hilarious and provocative drama” by Joshua Harmon, author of “Bad Jews” and “Significant Other.” Sherri Rosen-Mason is head of the admissions department at a New England prep school, fighting to diversify the student body. She and her husband, the school’s Headmaster, have largely succeeded in bringing a stodgy institution into the 21st century. But when their only son sets his sights on an Ivy League university, personal ambition collides with progressive values, with convulsive results.
Winner of the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Play. “Astonishing and daring. An extraordinarily useful and excruciating satire—of the left, by the left, for the left—for today.” – New York Times
“Admissions” is presented with no intermission
Director – ANDREW BOTSFORD
Set Design – SEAN MARBURY
Lighting Design – SEBASTIAN PACZYNSKI
Set Decor – DIANA MARBURY
Costume Design – TERESA LEBRUN
Rehearsal Stage Manager – GEORGE LOIZIDES
Production Stage Manager – NICK FITZGERALD
Set Construction – NICK FITZGERALD, AARON LEVINE,SEAN MARBURY, FRANKLIN SENGARIMA, PETER YORK
Sound Design – ANDREW BOTSFORD, SEAMUS NAUGHTON
Lighting/Sound Tech – AARON LEVINE
Backstage Crew – KEN MORSCH
Box Office – LISA CARR/SONYA HUBBARD
Production Graphics – JOE PALLISTER
House Manager – JULIA MORGAN ABRAMS
Production Photographer – TOM KOCHIE
East End Theater Review: “Admissions” Is A Successful Lit Stick Of Dynamite Of A Comedy
What I love about the Hampton Theatre Company is that every production they produce is of Broadway quality. The production of Admissions, a play by Joshua Harmon, was on opening night a lit stick of dynamite of a comedy that is timely, important, and a must see. The Hampton Theatre Company once again has shined its unique bright light on live theater excellence.
The special ambiance of the Quogue Community Hall accented some of what I considered to be special theater moments as I watched the opening night performance of Admissions. This Andrew Botsford directed play had my full attention laughing, wincing, and thinking, all at the edge of my seat.
Ian Hubbard has a “Ferris Bueller” break out performance with one scene so amazing I almost stood and applauded while he was still ripping through the lines. His youth and his stage presence power has future star on stage and beyond written on his forehead. He was magical, mercurial, believable, as he seemed to effortlessly handle what I believe are the integral lines of this production.
I have long been a fan of Minerva Perez since her Romeo and Juliet performance years back, but she truly surprised me with a new range of acting skills that made her almost unrecognizable to me in her role as Ginnie. In a quiet and dignified way, she added a certain depth and humanity to what I felt was a difficult role.
Morgan Duke Vaughan was fascinating with her interpretation of Sherri. She handles this complicated role handily and wins the audience with her honest broker approach, perhaps with an assist from director Andrew Botsford whose pinpoint approach to excellence was stamped in every scene of the many scenes in this play.
Tristan Vaughan is excellent as Bill and delivers some great lines with the right touches. He and Morgan Duke Vaughan have some great stage chemistry perhaps for obvious reasons.
Lastly, I love everything and anything Diana Marbury because she is an epic icon of East End live theater! I hung onto every syllable of her very nuanced lines. Her bubbling talent pours out through facial expressions, pauses, and variation of tones that is her gift and mastery of her craft. I am truly a fan of her talent.
There are many scene changes back and forth and I believe the backstage crew of Ken Morsch deserve a shout out. As the sets appeared, disappeared and reappeared flawlessly throughout the production.
Go see this show; it’s money and time well spent, because it is everything wonderful about live theater.
HTC’s Admissions will run through Sunday, February 2. Performances will take place on Thursdays and Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. An additional matinee performance will be offered during the final weekend of the production, on Saturday, February 1, prior to the regular 8 p.m. performance that evening. Talkbacks with the cast will be offered after the Thursday, January 23, and Friday, January 24 performances.
Special dinner and theater packages will be available in collaboration with the Westhampton, Southampton, Hampton Bays and Quogue libraries. A special lunch and theater package is also available for the Saturday matinee on February 1, with lunch before the show at the Quogue Club at the Hallock House.
Tickets are $30. Discount tickets are available for veterans, Native Americans, under 35, students, and groups.
Quogue Community Hall is located at 125 Jessup Avenue in Quogue. For tickets, call 1-866-811-4111
A-Plus For ‘Admissions’ At HTC
This review could be as short as one sentence: Go see this play.
In fact, go see it twice, as this writer did.
Hampton Theatre Company describes its second show of the 35th season this way: “Sherri Rosen-Mason is head of the admissions department at a New England prep school, fighting to diversify the student body. She and her husband, the school’s headmaster, have largely succeeded in bringing a stodgy institution into the 21st Century. But when their only son sets his sights on an Ivy League university, personal ambition collides with progressive values, with convulsive results.”
It goes deeper than that. In Joshua Harmon’s play, which was produced off-Broadway in 2018, but set in 2015, there was still an African American president, and although he is never mentioned by name or even referred to, liberal thinking still ruled the day without a lot of pushback.
But how liberal is liberal when your own son is denied “a seat at the table” — a phrase used regularly throughout the show — yet his “quarter-black” friend gets a seat?
The play contains enough twists and turns in perspective to keep everyone interested, no matter where your interests may lie, although it seems to strike those who have been through the college application process with their own kids particularly strongly.
Andrew Botsford has done a masterful job directing, casting Minerva Perez, best known in these parts as the executive director of the Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island, in an unrecognizable straight wig, playing the white mother of a biracial child.
Morgan and Tristan Vaughan perfectly play the married head of admissions and headmaster of Hillcrest, a New Hampshire prep school, with all the dynamics of a married couple who are stressed out about their son’s college decisions. Diana Marbury represents the old guard; trying to keep up with the times, not understanding why “Moby Dick” (a book by a white guy about a white whale) is no longer read in class (substituted, perhaps, by Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye,” mentioned in another scene). Marbury provides most of the evening’s laughs.
But Ian Hubbard, a 17-year-old Hampton Bays High School senior, steals the show. His smarts and sensibility shine through as Charlie, a good kid who got a bad break. And kudos to the cast and crew for giving Hubbard the room to hold his angry-young-man rants and regrets, as well as the audience’s attention. He is absolutely terrific.
“Admissions,” as most titles of plays are, is twofold. It’s about more than the admissions process. It’s truly about what we are willing to admit to ourselves in times of crisis.
Opinion: A Woke New World
By Kurt Wenzel
East Hampton Star
Do white liberals hate themselves? Are quota systems fair, or even logical? How dark must your skin be to be considered a “person of color”? These are just some of the questions raised by “Admissions,” a satire about education and diversity now in revival by the Hampton Theatre Company in Quogue.
“Admissions” is a kind of companion piece to “Safe Space,” another satire about student life, which was produced so successfully last summer at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor. “Admissions” is less searing than “Safe Space,” though the satire is no less biting. Joshua Harmon, the playwright, takes us to a brave new world where parents, children, and faculty are obliged to navigate the often confusing, often flawed — and sometimes downright illogical — climate of enforced liberal diversity.
The setting is Hillcrest, an elite preparatory school in New Hampshire. (All the characters in “Admissions,” it needs to be said, are white.) Sherri, the director of admissions (Morgan Vaughan), is hell-bent on making Hillcrest less white. Proudly, and precisely, she tracks the rise in the percentage of minority students during her tenure. When she hits 20 percent, her equally “woke” husband, Bill (Tristan Vaughan), who also works at the school, brings home a bottle of wine to celebrate. Sherri’s friend Ginnie, who is married to an African-American, also decries how white Hillcrest is and praises Sherri for her work.
If this sounds a little self-righteous, it’s because it is. Minerva Perez is especially adept at embodying Ginnie’s aura of sanctimony. Though it’s never stated, her character’s subtext is that being married to a black man gives her a moral superiority, and thanks to Ms. Perez, Ginnie’s piety is almost unbearable to watch.
Enter Charlie, Sherri and Bill’s son. He has just been deferred by Yale, though his grades and SATs more than exceed the requirements. Distraught that Ginnie’s half-black son, Perry, has been accepted at Yale with lesser scores, Charlie delivers a blistering monologue on the stupidities of diversity-mania. As Charlie, Ian Hubbard (a senior at Hampton Bays High School) delivers a show-stealing performance, capped by this 15-minute soliloquy in which the character eviscerates racial talking points one by one, finally ending with a shocking “Sieg Heil” salute.
Ugly as this is, we know Charlie doesn’t really mean it, first because he is half Jewish, and because we already know he is far too intelligent to engage in hateful gestures without irony. Rather it is a symbol of his exasperation — at having been rejected by Yale for being in the wrong racial pool, at having to endure the culture’s constant insults of being, yuck, a white male.
Of course, good satire always bites its own tail, and “Admissions” certainly does that. After his speech, Charlie is excoriated by his father for being a spoiled, privileged brat (another irony). A few days later, he confronts his mother in the admissions office. Charlie has had a change of heart. Upon reflection, he argues — quite convincingly — that there are plenty of undeserving white kids at Hillcrest as well, subpar students of wealthy parents who have given endowments to the school, for example, or are admitted for reasons of “legacy,” among other unfair advantages. Quota systems are useful, he concludes.
Sherri seems pleased until Charlie comes up with a scheme to follow his parents’ ideals to their logical conclusion, putting his own college career in jeopardy in the name of diversity. His parents hit the roof, of course, and their own hypocrisy is laid bare.
The director, Andrew Botsford, wisely asks his cast to completely buy in on their characters’ smugness, even at the risk of being unlikable. And as usual with this company, the performances are uniformly strong.
Diana Marbury has an especially nice turn as Roberta, the photographer for the school catalog, who is upbraided by Sherri for not taking enough pictures of “easily identifiable” minority students. “You mean more dark-skinned?” Roberta frankly asks, and is told no, though that is exactly what she is being asked to do. Roberta is the kind of “boomer” who was always on the right side of racial issues, but never thought much about it until it was foisted on her by people like Sherri.
There are numerous set changes in “Admissions.” This is, of course, dictated by Mr. Harmon’s text. But in this production the changes can take what seems like several minutes, and this can sometimes sacrifice valuable momentum as the audience sits waiting patiently in the dark for the next scene.
But there’s no spoiling what is otherwise a top-notch production of a timely drama. In “Admissions,” Mr. Harmon takes aim not at diversity itself, but rather the sanctimony of its proponents, who cower under the shadow of white guilt and then strut their “wokeness” like a badge of honor.
It’s a target so big he almost couldn’t miss.