Stratford’s production of ‘Admissions’ revolves around hypocritical liberals and applying to college
Square One Theatre Company, Stratford: When Charlie Luther Mason, the smartest kid in an elitist private prep school, does not get into Yale and his black friend gets accepted, Charlie is angry. He is also angry when a girl gets to be the managing editor of the school paper, when he believes he should have been. Charlie then goes into a diatribe that alarms his liberal-minded parents. He can’t stand that because he is a white male he is passed over. And so begins Joshua Harmon’s “Admissions.”
Sherri Rosen-Mason is not happy with the new catalog Roberta has designed because it doesn’t feature enough diversity. The black students aren’t black enough and there aren’t many Spanish students featured either. Actor/director Ruth Anne Baumgartner of Fairfield as Roberta gives Sherri a hard time and gets down to business in a most provocative way.
Robert Thomas Halliwell of Stratford plays Charlie and delivers a remarkable performance that makes one appreciate that this super talented young actor is still in our midst and not in a New York play or Hollywood film. He will get there eventually if he has perseverance. He certainly has the talent. His impassioned monologue is proof enough of that.
His parents, Sherri Rosen-Mason and Bill Mason, are played by two outstanding local actors Janet Rathert of New Canaan and Pat Leo of Monroe, respectively. Bill is head of the prestigious school and Sherri is in charge of admissions as well as the annual school catalog. This couple is excited about bringing more diversity to the school. They consider themselves devoted liberals and call a black English teacher and his wife and son, their good friends. They are so conscious of diversity that they claim they even have some white friends.
Bill is stunned by his son’s outburst and calls him something like a “snot-nosed, spoiled brat.” Sherri is quiet. She’s a mom and feels deeply for her son. She understands his frustration. When her friend Ginnie, the black boy’s mom played by the ever vivacious Lucy Babbitt of Stratford, comes to visit, she is surprised that Charlie suggests her son only got into Yale because of his color. That Sherri doesn’t dispute this alarms Ginnie and before you know it, the close-knit friends are not so close anymore.
What really triggers this whole thing is when Charlie does a complete 360 and decides he doesn’t want to go to a prestigious college any more. He’s going to work his way through a community college on his own. That’s when his diversity focused parents go crazy. They want him in a college where he can be with the type of people who will be influential in the world. They fight tooth and nail, but in the process reveal that though they are racially and diversity-minded when it comes to the school and their world — when it comes down to their own lives, that’s a whole different story.
Director Tom Holehan couldn’t have picked a more timely play. With all the celebrity focus on buying their kids into the most prestigious colleges in the country, college admissions is a very hot topic. Even though the complete turnaround is a bit too convenient for me, the play says a great deal and is a must-see production. It plays through Nov. 24. Box office: 203-375-8778.
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.