That is the goal of Hillcrest Admissions Director Sherri Rosen-Mason, who at the same time is pushing her own white, privileged, connected, middle class son to get into Yale. That is the scene of this provocative, topical, thought-provoking play by Joshua Harmon, directed with impeccable care by Bryn Boice.
The one-act play has two perfect sets, changeable by a clever brick wall that rises and falls, as do the lives of the Mason family.
The theme of white privilege, especially when it comes to getting into the “right” schools, has been very much in the news these days. Harmon asks the tough questions, often presenting both sides of the issues, while pulling no punches.
Sherri Rosen-Mason (Deb Martin) is one tough lady who will fight for diversity in her exclusive prep school, while also fighting for her son to have all the privileges of his white, middle class upbringing.
Son Charlie (Jacob Osborne), part of the white 80% at Hillcrest and one of the top students, is devastated when Yale rejects him. He vents with a teenage rage before his parents in a monologue that leaves him and the audience exhausted. Sherri sympathizes and vows to support him, while his father (Jim O’Brien), also a school administrator, responds with anger and disgust. How the situation resolves itself makes up the remainder of this tense, taut, remarkable play.
A play, no matter how well written, is only as good as the actors who make the written words come alive.
Artistic Director Tony Estrella has the unique talent of finding actors who flesh out their roles with brilliance, mixing members of his loyal troupe with newer actors who have proven themselves in other roles. Deb Martin is one of those actors. Her elocution, her body language, her every moment on stage is a delight to watch. You will not always like what she says and does, but you feel the passion for her actions.
Newcomer Jacob Osborne, ironically a Yale grad, is a keeper. His monologue is nonstop passion mixed with a rambling rage. His sudden change and follow-through is so convincing that you cheer for him. Veteran Jim O’Brien has played a number of diversified roles, and every time I see him I think it is his best. The role of Bill Mason is a complicated one as he seeks to support his wife and son but can no longer accept their actions. Regular Karen Carpenter plays her role of Sherri's best friend and catalyst for a surprising ending with perfection.
And then there is the wonderful Wendy Overly, so often in the background as director and voice coach, who provides the comic relief needed in the play, as the development director who tries so hard to please her boss but sees the academic world from an entirely different perspective.
Put them all together and you have one heck of a play that will both entertain and at times infuriate you and leave you thinking about a number of important issues.
“Admissions” is at Warwick’s Gamm Theatre through February 9. Tickets are $45, $55 and $65, and there’s not a bad seat in the house. Call 723-4266 for reservations. Don’t miss it!