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The high cost of ADMISSIONS

ADMISSIONS, now playing at OnStage Playhouse through Feb 27th looks at the hype and hypocrisy of the American education system and the smug, well-meaning, and wealthy liberals that promote diversity but not at a personal cost. This deliberately provocative play is performed by a strong cast and is funny, intriguing, and infuriating.

Photo Credit: Tom Steward, left, Wendy Waddell, and Devin Wade in OnStage Playhouse's ADMISSIONS (Ana Carolina Chiminazzo)
Photo Credit: Tom Steward, left, Wendy Waddell, and Devin Wade in OnStage Playhouse’s ADMISSIONS (Ana Carolina Chiminazzo)

Sherri (Wendy Waddell) is an admissions officer at a prestigious, private, and mostly white college prep school. When the audience meets her Sherri is proudly proclaiming how she has brought the school’s diversity numbers up to 18% to her unimpressed and combative co-worker Roberta (Anna Sandor). Roberta is old school, coming from a legacy family at the school, and complains that “she liked everything how it was” and that she “doesn’t see color,” so she struggles to understand the school’s diversity initiative.

Sherri’s husband, Bill (Tom Steward) is the headmaster of the school, and equally as proud and committed as Sherri to increasing the school diversity. Their son Charlie (Devin Wade) attends the school and is on the cusp of finding out if he and his best friend Perry have been accepted to Yale or not. Ginnie (Holly Stephenson) mother of Perry and a family friend comes over to see how everyone is faring.

When Charlie finds out that Perry, who is of mixed race has been accepted to Yale, while Charlie has been deferred, the entire family’s actions reveal that maybe their ideals are at odds with their personal expectations.

Waddell is excellent as Sherri, a woman who truly believes what she has said about diversity and inclusion for others, but may believe in it only up to a point. She is the type of mother who chastises others for saying terrible things, but when her own child says something waves it away with “he’s just upset.”

Steward as her husband Bill is more pragmatic with Charlie and challenges him more than Sherri does, but it all feels more like a lecture he’s giving for faculty than really expecting his son to give up any of his privileged existence.

Wade’s Charlie is smart, articulate, entitled, and a product of his parent’s upbringing. After learning about Yale he first goes to scream in the woods for hours, and when he comes home launches into a truly impressive tirade; a tantrum that would make any toddler proud. As he rants about the unfairness of affirmative action he doesn’t even seem to come up for a breath. From college admissions to Penelope Cruz, the Holocaust, and his school newspaper editor, you can’t help but laugh at the insanity, length, and (dare I say it?) diversity of the rant.

Sandor and Stephenson bring necessary balance as representatives of either side on the arguments.

ADMISSIONS is written so the audience is complicit with the family on the importance of diversity and representation, and the feeling that it is unfair when the consequences of it happen to someone you know. Since a synonym to admissions is “confessions” it’s no surprise when the second half of the play feels more like the family trying to do some penance for th.ire newly exposed faults and maintain their position in society.

Director James P. Darvas directs this dark satire with a lot of nuance and humor. Everything plays out on a beautiful set by Felipe Ramirez, with lighting Kevin “Blax” Burroughs designed the lighting, costumes by Pam Stompoly-Ericson, with sound and stage management by Estefania Ricalde.

The issue of ADMISSIONS is that by the time the tonal shift/repentance happens it has less impact and feels hard to believe since most of the character’s energy and convictions have been devoted to their worst ideas. In a way the play is an example of its problematic characters; this play is all white characters debating programs that offer opportunities for people of color while at the same time excluding them from being characters or having a voice in the play itself.

The real admission worth contemplating is this: is the public you who you actually are in private?

How to get Tickets

ADMISSIONS is playing at OnStage Playhouse through Feb 27th. For ticket and show tie information go to www.onstageplayhouse.com

COVID protocol: Proof of full vaccine required or negative result from COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours of showtime and masks required indoors.

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