Susan Granger’s review of “Admissions” (Mitzi Newhouse Theater/Lincoln Center: Off-Broadway)
Satire reigns supreme in Joshua Harmon’s provocative new play, tackling the timely topics of racial representation and white privilege, while skewering liberal hypocrisy.
At Hillcrest, a progressive New Hampshire prep school, the head of admissions, Sherri Rosen-Mason (Jessica Hecht), has proudly increased the student body’s diversity quotient from 6% to 18% – and soon it may climb even higher.
While she’s encouraged to fervently pursue this concept of inclusion by her husband, Bill Mason (Andrew Garman), who serves as headmaster, they both recognize the need to continue to fast-track enrollment of white legacy students.
Complications arise when their son Charlie (Ben Edelman) and his inseparable best-friend Perry, the bi-racial son of Sherri’s best-friend Ginnie Peters (Sally Murphy), both apply to Yale, primarily because both boys love the movie “Mystic Pizza.”
Not surprisingly, Perry gets accepted, while Charlie’s application is deferred, despite the fact that Charlie’s SAT scores exceeded Perry’s and he took three A.P. courses when Perry only took two.
Furious Charlie is understandably bitter that Perry benefits from racial quotas while he’s summarily sidelined as just another ‘entitled white man.’ It’s full-blown Ivy League irony – with a nod to Jews who, historically, were excluded by the Old Guard.
Eventually, of course, Charlie re-thinks his ire, noting, “If there are going to be new voices at the table, someone has to stand up and offer someone else his seat.”
Jessica Hecht delivers a bravura performance, subtly shading much of the speechifying dialogue, ably supported by Ann McDonough as her hapless Development staffer Roberta, who confesses, “I don’t see color. I don’t look at race. Maybe that’s my problem.”
Director Daniel Aukin adroitly slices and skewers, putting his well-chosen cast through their paces, as playwright Joshua Harmon (“Bad Jews,” “Significant Other”) places the essential dilemma right in the laps of Lincoln Center audience members.
Currently playing at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, “Admissions” has been extended through May 6, 2018.