Above, from left to right: Deb Martin as Sherri Rosen-Mason, Jacob Osborne as Charlie Mason, and Jim O’Brien as Bill Mason.
By Noelle Salisbury
This show was a tough one. I’m sure, readers, you know someone currently participating in the circus that is college admissions. Backflips through hoops, daring high-wire tightrope walks, and a parade of clowns push students through senior year as every teenager on the cusp of adulthood attempts to juggle their applications and anticipate exactly what they need for success.
Admissions, by playwright Joshua Harmon, is The Gamm’s first show of 2020, perfectly timed to strike the heartstrings of high school seniors and their parents alike. As a high school senior myself (who invited my mom as my plus one), it was equally satisfying and repulsing to see my experience reflected on The Gamm’s intimate stage, decked in a simplistic, yet sleek set. Initially featuring a plain office of the prep school in which Deb Martin’s matriarch character runs admissions, the stage is then transformed into the glossy, modern kitchen of the aforementioned matriarch, Sherri, and her family.
This family includes her son, Charlie (played by the animated Jacob Osborne), and her liberal husband, Bill (portrayed by Jim O’Brien). The set is further accentuated by the excellent lighting design, including fades, the blue glow of a screen, and transitions from an impeccable home to an even neater office.
To be clear, I was not expecting Admissions’ true agenda as an ambiguous analysis of racial privilege. Excellently established in the first scene, Admissions views the nature of white privilege and ethnic quotas, not just in college admissions, but in life, through the eyes of two different generations of liberal white people. This concept is still difficult to wrap my head around as a liberal white girl from a largely homogeneous town. Considering, however, that I’ve turned the contents of this show over in my head countless times since seeing it, Admissions is clearly an influential piece of theater. On the subjects of race, parent-child relationships, and the dreaded admissions process, this show is soaked in relevance. For this, I commend The Gamm, which always seems to select pertinent plays meant to resonate with the audience. This was another flawless selection.
Performances that particularly stand out are those of Deb Martin and Jacob Osborne. Both are delightfully alive for a marathon lasting an hour and forty-five minutes (without intermission), each executing their roles in energetic yet genuine portrayals. The mother-son bond between the two is so believable that my mom often commented on how uncanny Osborne’s character was to my 15-year-old brother. They manage to engage the audience for the full runtime without caricaturing the source material. Additionally, Bryn Boice’s direction gives the piece the cohesion necessary to produce as much knowing laughter as inward reflection.
So if you are looking to truly enjoy yourself and go home questioning how much your ethnicity plays into your life’s path, I wholeheartedly recommend seeing Admissions.
Admissions runs until February 9th at The Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre in Warwick. In fact, I implore you.
Find more information at https://www.gammtheatre.org/admissions.
Theater reviewer Noelle Salisbury is a senior at East Greenwich High School.