Harbinger Theatre, Albany, NY
Admissions, by Joshua Harmon . Directed by Patrick White. Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman
"You may not go to community college!"
This is a play about prejudice; it is a play about education; it's a play about family values and relationships. It's a play about so many things that sometimes it is hard to keep track of where it is and where it may be going. All of the issues it addresses are vital and invigorating and they work together like fingers in gloves - workable if slightly shrouded. It's an enjoyable piece of theater, just slightly obscured by actors who do not speak clearly. Harbinger Theatre's cast is a mixed bag of talents. The comedy in the writing generally comes through loud and clear, but the dramatic impact is dampened by voices that don't carry across the stage's edge and rapid-fire speech patterns that partly obscure the words themselves. It is a pity, too, for when the company is good, it is very good.
Charlie Luther Mason (Vlad Panchishak) is a senior at the private school run by his mother Sherri Rubin Mason (Christina Reeves). His father, Bill Mason (Bill Schein) teaches there. Sherri is determined to make this New Hampshire boarding school into a fully integrated school in order to improve its value and importance. This is just an example of the script's direction. Charlie's best friend at school is Perry, a black student whose mother Ginnie Peters (Olivia Sblendorio) is white. Assisting Sherri with the complement of minority race students is Roberta Russert (Beverly Skoll) a deliciously sarcastic - almost sardonic - staff member. These five characters and the unseen Perry, create and deal with the tensions that author Joshua Harmon infuses into his text. In 95 minutes covering five months, all of the play's issues are displayed, drawn forward and resolved. . .not always to the characters' liking.
Charlie, disappointed at not being accepted into Yale while Perry has been, works his way through depression to determination about going his own way. a way that takes some time arriving. His parents don't approve and that established, determinedly, the family issues that carry through the play. Panchishak is his own worst enemy here, his loud and bombastic performance often hard to understand. When he is good, he is excellent but when he over-reaches he drowns out his words, words we need to hear. Reeves has just the opposite problem. She is often hard to hear and she seems to mumble also making her speeches a bit incoherent. Luckily for the play the sense of things comes through in spite of these speech problems. As father and husband, however, Schein is never hard to hear or to comprehend. Throughout the play his motives and intent are clearly defined. His performance is the best in the play and he has my gratitude for that.
Christina Reeves, Beverly Skoll; Photo: Adam Wilson-Hwang
Director Patrick White has choreographed his company of five into a remarkably easy evening of complex issues. His own set design provides the company with many locations and a stage that dances to the tunes these characters hear in their heads. Practical costumes by Barbara Neu-Berti and lighting designed by Nicholas Nealon assist White admirably as does the fine sound design work of Brian Starnes. This is a very intriguing play that has been given a very fascinating production. I wish I could have heard all of it clearly, but the effectiveness in the writing is ultimately borne out in the final section of the play.
+ 03/03/2022 +
Admissions plays at the Albany Barn Theater, 56 2nd Street, Albany, NY through March 12. For information and tickets call 518-779-2803.