This review could be as short as one sentence: Go see this play.
In fact, go see it twice, as this writer did.
Hampton Theatre Company describes its second show of the 35th season this way: “Sherri Rosen-Mason is head of the admissions department at a New England prep school, fighting to diversify the student body. She and her husband, the school’s headmaster, have largely succeeded in bringing a stodgy institution into the 21st Century. But when their only son sets his sights on an Ivy League university, personal ambition collides with progressive values, with convulsive results.”
It goes deeper than that. In Joshua Harmon’s play, which was produced off-Broadway in 2018, but set in 2015, there was still an African American president, and although he is never mentioned by name or even referred to, liberal thinking still ruled the day without a lot of pushback.
But how liberal is liberal when your own son is denied “a seat at the table” — a phrase used regularly throughout the show — yet his “quarter-black” friend gets a seat?
The play contains enough twists and turns in perspective to keep everyone interested, no matter where your interests may lie, although it seems to strike those who have been through the college application process with their own kids particularly strongly.
Andrew Botsford has done a masterful job directing, casting Minerva Perez, best known in these parts as the executive director of the Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island, in an unrecognizable straight wig, playing the white mother of a biracial child.
Morgan and Tristan Vaughan perfectly play the married head of admissions and headmaster of Hillcrest, a New Hampshire prep school, with all the dynamics of a married couple who are stressed out about their son’s college decisions. Diana Marbury represents the old guard; trying to keep up with the times, not understanding why “Moby Dick” (a book by a white guy about a white whale) is no longer read in class (substituted, perhaps, by Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye,” mentioned in another scene). Marbury provides most of the evening’s laughs.
But Ian Hubbard, a 17-year-old Hampton Bays High School senior, steals the show. His smarts and sensibility shine through as Charlie, a good kid who got a bad break. And kudos to the cast and crew for giving Hubbard the room to hold his angry-young-man rants and regrets, as well as the audience’s attention. He is absolutely terrific.
“Admissions,” as most titles of plays are, is twofold. It’s about more than the admissions process. It’s truly about what we are willing to admit to ourselves in times of crisis.
Visit www.hamptontheatre.org to get tickets. The show runs through Sunday, February 2.