Admissions is not a mystery, but this clever comedy is as tense and thought-provoking as any mystery could be and takes an unexpected turn that keeps the audience guessing until the very end. Partly taking place at Hillcrest, a New Hampshire boarding school, award-winning play Admissions tackles many tough and occasionally uncomfortable topics such as white privilege, diversity, and more. It has a dark sense of humor and nonetheless hilarious, but may leave you at times wondering whether laughing is the right thing to do, inviting the audience to skew their outlook on the world.
With a well constructed wooden staircase, an island kitchen, and a well-furnished and fold out set, Props Master Matthew Robert and Wooden Kiwi Productions create an inviting household and faculty office which alternate throughout the show.
Nathan Malin delivers an intense, witty, and complex performance as Charlie Luthur Mason, a Hillcrest student distraught and frustrated over his deferment to Yale despite his stellar grades and dedicated work ethic. Hillcrest’s Headmaster Bill, portrayed by Michael Kaye and Dean of Admissions Sherri, depicted by Maureen Keiller, are Charlie’s parents. Charlie believes there are other forces at work.
This intriguing show features a small and mighty cast, leaving the audience plenty of time to get acquainted with these multi-faceted characters. Each character represents a different perspective and offers a carefully balanced view of the show’s topics while the show may leaves you wondering which side it represents.
Admissions is quick-witted and funny right from the start as Roberta, portrayed by Cheryl McMahon, shares a humorous story on her plans for Christmas break. McMahon is candid, animated, and glorious as Roberta, a staff member at Hillcrest eager to please, but marginally on her own terms. McMahon’s chatty demeanor and sharp comic timing with Maureen Keiller as Sherri make for some eye opening and captivating moments.
Maureen Keiller, who was also impressive in SpeakEasy Stage’s Riverside and Crazy, delivers another excellent performance as Sherri. Sherri juggles her life as a wife, mother, and a frustrated but proud Dean of Admissions. She strives to be inclusive and politically correct, but her confidence is waning lately as she is forced to look at her work from a different angle. The show examines some signs of helicopter parenting as Sherri is overwhelmingly concerned with Charlie’s emotional state and fixing it any way she can. However, she also demonstrates reason and compassion as she faces some intense moments with Charlie, Michael Kaye as her patient and accomplished husband Bill, and Marianna Bassham as Sherri’s open and honest best friend, Ginnie. Kaye and Bassham also hold their own in compelling performances.
What makes this show so intriguing is each character struggle to understand each other while each are convinced they are right. One of the production’s most memorable scenes involves Nathan Malin’s Charlie as he delivers a powerful, effective, and perplexing diatribe on how he sees the world. The speech is as amusing as it is controversial and Malin gives it all the gusto it deserves.
Admissions is as uncomfortable as it is riveting, cleverly and uniquely addressing some tough topics while delivering more than its fair share of humorous moments. It harbors an important message about genuinely striving to make a difference in the world while acknowledging that looks can be deceiving.
Joshua Harmon’s Admissions continues through Saturday, November 30. Click here for more information and tickets. SpeakEasy Stage Company’s current season also features upcoming performances of Passover, The Children, and Bright Star.