Ruth Gottschall to Step Into the Role of Miss Hannigan in the
Ogunquit Playhouse Holiday Production of Annie at The Music Hall
Broadway’s Ruth Gottschallhas returned to the seacoast to step into the role of Miss Hannigan in the Ogunquit Playhouse production of Annie now on stage at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Ms. Gottschall replaces Sally Struthers who is recovering from surgery for a broken leg which was caused by a fall on an ice covered walkway earlier this week following the recent snow storms. Ms. Gottschall will take the stage the week of December 9, and through the end of the run.
“Our Dear Sally will need to step out of Annie for the rest of the run to get herself back on her feet. But she will be nearby – so don’t be surprised if you see her sneak in to watch to the show! We are grateful that Sally is resting comfortably and feeling great right now. While we will miss her very much in this role, we want her to continue to rest and to enjoy time with her family and friends over the holidays. We of course look forward to welcoming Sally to our stage in 2020. With Sally’s blessing, the Ogunquit Playhouse is thrilled to announce that Ruth Gottschall, the brilliant Broadway actress who delighted Ogunquit audiences this past summer in Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express, has arrived in Ogunquit to take over the role of Miss Hannigan,” stated Executive Artistic Director Bradford Kenney.
Ms. Gottschall madeher Ogunquit Playhouse debut as Helen Hubbard this past summer in the critically acclaimed mystery, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. On Broadway she has performed in Mary Poppins, The Music Man, Laughing Room Only, Cabaret, and The Best Little Whorehousein Texas among others. At regional theatres she has portrayed Aunt Eller in Pittsburgh CLO’s Oklahoma!, Maggie in Bucks County Playhouse’s 42nd Street, and Mrs. Tottendale in Goodspeed Opera House’s The Drowsy Chaperone.
Annie is on stage now through December 22 at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Annie is the story of a spunky, red-headed orphan who lands a holiday stay with Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, a billionaire trying to do good. This delightful musical has become a worldwide phenomenon and is the winner of seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The acclaimed book and score by Tony Award-winners Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse, and Martin Charnin feature some of the greatest musical theatre hits ever written, including “Tomorrow.”
The Ogunquit Playhouse production is helmed by Broadway Director/Choreographer James A. Rocco. The cast includes Josie Todd as Annie, Emmy nominee Robert Newmanas Oliver Warbucks, and Broadway veterans Angie Schworeras Lily St. Regis, Jeffry Denman as Rooster Hannigan, and Gail Bennett as Grace Farrell.
To purchase tickets call The Music Hall box office at 603-436-2300 or visit TheMusicHall.org.
The Ogunquit Playhouse has been closed down for the winter, but the season is not quite over. Ogunquit’s Executive Artistic Director Brad Kenney has joined forces with Patricia Lynch who is the Executive Director of The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire to bring a lovely holiday gift to New England theatre goers. That gift is the superb production of the musical Annie playing at the Music Hall through December 22.
Directed and choreographed by Jamie Rocco, Annie is running on all cylinders on the stage of the magnificent Historic Theater in Portsmouth. Just stepping into this beautifully restored Victorian Era theater is a breathtaking experience. Even before the curtain goes up it is impossible not to be impressed by the surroundings. And once the orchestra starts playing the overture and the actors first take to the stage it all comes together for a wonderful night of theatre
Annie first appeared on Broadway in 1977 and has lost none of its charm over the years and through many revivals. The Ogunquit Playhouse versionplaying in Portsmouth has been freshened up a bit while retaining its original score and still brings smiles to the faces of the audience while tugging at the heartstrings.
ring that dream with a very lucky audience.
This production of Annie is flawless and rivals anything you will see on Broadway. It is a top notch production that should not be missed.
Josie Todd as Annie, the orphan who sets out to find her birth parents, is feisty and lovable. She leads the other orphans in great renditions of Maybe and It’s A Hard Knock Life and takes it to the top with Tomorrow. I would imagine this is a dream role for Ms Todd and she is sharing that dream with a very lucky audience.
The orphans at the Municipal Girls Orphanage run by Miss Hannigan are played by an ensemble of young actors who are excellently choreographed and get to really show their talents in the number You’re Never Really Dressed Without A Smile. Each and every one of them performed like experienced Broadway performers.
Robert Newman brings an Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks to the stage who shows the strength and drive that made him a billionaire while conveying the warm heart that is melted by his relationship with Annie. Mr. Newman’s version of Something Was Missing is touching and lovely.
I last saw Gail Bennett in the 2014 production of Mary Poppins at the Ogunquit Playhouse. In Annie she is cast as Grace Farrell the personal assistant of Oliver Warbucks. It was a pleasure to see her on the stage again.
The scene recreating a 1930’s radio broadcast where Oliver Warbucks takes to the air offering a reward to find the birth parents of Annie, it is filled with nostalgia. Kevin McMahon plays host Bert Healy wearing a straw hat and accompanied by a ventriloquist with a dummy, and a sound effects man (Trent Kidd) There is also an Andrews Sisters style singing group the Boylan Sisters (Karen Largerberg, Zina Ellis, and Kym Chambers Otto). The program revolves around the song You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile. It is all set in a recreated radio station. There is quite an enjoyable tap-dancing number performed by the sound effects man usingwooden shoes on a table.
This wonderful cast has another member who is truly unforgettable; Sally Struthers reprising her role as Miss Hannigan. It is more than a bit ironic that Ms Struthers who has spent her life advocating for children would be playing a character who runs an orphanage as if it were a prison. In the number Little Girls she is very funny while displaying her dislike of the children by manipulating a doll in a rather sociopathic manner. It is a scene that was suggested by Ms Struthers and could only be pulled off by her.
Sally Struthers is a regular at the Ogunquit Playhouse every year and never disappoints. In her role as Miss Hannigan she outdoes herself. I’ve mentioned it before but must do so again in saying that she has a knack for comedic timing that is rarely seen. Her pauses and glances at the audience induce laughter every time. Ms Struthers also shows what a true professional she is by never attempting to steal scenes from the other actors. She works well with everyone. Of course, she is working with a cast that is deeply talented and all enhance one another.
Ms Struthers is at her character’s conniving best when plotting with her younger brother Rooster (Jeffry Denman) and his girlfriend Lily St. Regis (Angie Schworer). They are all wickedly funny.
What would Annie be without her dog Sandy who is played by rescue dog Macy. Macy comes close to stealing the show and captures the hearts of the audience with her beautiful eyes. She was an orphan in real life so it is only fitting she has a role in this play about orphans.
Set during the Great Depression the story has many references to figures of that era and includes a scene with Franklin D. Roosevelt (Doug Carfrae) and his cabinet joining Annie in singing Tomorrow. I’m not sure how many young audience members will be familiar with the names of these confidantes of FDR as well as the references to figures of the day such as Harpo Marx, Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth, Bernard Baruch, Herbert Hoover, and Fiorello LaGuardia, but not knowing them takes nothing away from the enjoyment. Mr. Carfrae is returning to the Ogunquit Playhouse after an absence of a mere 46 years. He still has it!
In the spirit of the season the play closes with a beautiful Christmas party. This combined with the festive decorations in the theatre and then stepping out to the streets of Portsmouth to breath in the Christmas Season is a delightful experience.
This production of Annie is flawless and rivals anything you will see on Broadway. It is a top notch production that should not be missed. I highly recommend you take in a performance. It’s a wonderful coda to this year’s Ogunquit Playhouse season.
Many people give up on the coast of northern New England after summer, but by doing so they are missing out on a very beautiful time of the year.
Ogunquit Playhouse’s Annie at the Music Hall in Portsmouth is just the recipe for getting into the holiday spirit. You’ll leave the theatre filled with the Christmas Spirit that will have the biggest Scrooges smiling. Head north, see Annie, enjoy Portsmouth, and then continue on to Ogunquit and the many other places that put the joy in this time of the year. You’ll be glad you did.
The other night I saw An Iliad at the Emerson Paramount Center. Presented by ArtsEmerson, this modern take on Homer’s Iliad is funny, stirring, and thought provoking. Written by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, it is directed by Ms Peterson and stars Mr. O’Hare.
It first played in Boston the weekend after the Marathon bombings and has now been brought back for a very limited engagement.
In approximately 100 minutes, Denis O’Hare accompanied by Eleonore Oppenheim on bass, tells the story of the Trojan War and the endless saga of man’s attraction to war and addiction to power. Mr. O’Hare is a dynamo on the stage while Ms Oppenheim adds mood and sound effects that beautifully enhance the performance.
There is a lot packed into this production, and you may feel a bit lost at moments, but you will never be bored and you will be moved. As time is running short, rather than have you spend time on more of my take on it I suggest you head over to the Paramount and see for it yourself. You’d better hurry though as there are only two performances left. Saturday at 8:00 P.M. and Sunday at 2:00 P.M.
Presented by ArtsEmerson In Association With Homer’s Coat
An All-Star Cast to Perform in the Ogunquit Playhouse
Holiday Production of Annie at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire
The Music Hall and Ogunquit Playhouse are thrilled to announce the cast and creative team of the beloved musical Annie, on stage November 27 through December 22 at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The Music Hall is located at The Historic Theatre, 28 Chestnut Street, Portsmouth, NH.
Annie is the story of a spunky, red-headed orphan who lands a holiday stay with Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, a billionaire trying to do good. This delightful musical has become a worldwide phenomenon and is the winner of seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The acclaimed book and score by Tony Award-winners Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse, and Martin Charnin feature some of the greatest musical theatre hits ever written, including “Tomorrow.”
The Ogunquit Playhouse production is helmed by Broadway Director/Choreographer James A. Rocco. Leading the all-star cast are Josie Todd as Annie, Emmy nominee Robert Newmanas Oliver Warbucks, Golden Globe and Emmy winner Sally Struthers as Miss Hannigan, and Broadway veterans Angie Schworeras Lily St. Regis, Jeffry Denman as Rooster Hannigan, and Gail Bennettas Grace Farrell.
Starring as the lead character Annie is Josie Todd who is making her Ogunquit Playhouse debut. She recently performed in Because of Winn Dixie at Goodspeed Musicals and Annie at Casa Mañana. Her many theatre roles include Beauty and the Beast as Chip, The Music Man as Gracie Shinn, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever as Maxine, and Freaky Friday, Jr. as Monica.
Joining the cast as Oliver Warbucks isRobert Newman whois perhaps best known for his 28-year run as Joshua Lewis on the longest running program in broadcasting history, Guiding Light.(which he also directed).
Sally Struthersreturns to the seacoast to reprise her role as Miss Hannigan.Ms. Struthersis a two-time Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award winner for her performance in the groundbreaking TV series All in the Family.
Ogunquit Playhouse is thrilled to welcome Gail Bennett back to the stage in the role of Grace Farrell.Ms. Bennett has performed in the Ogunquit productions of My Fair Lady as Eliza Doolittle opposite Jefferson Mays, The Sound of Music as Maria opposite Rex Smith, and as the title role in Mary Poppins on both the Ogunquit and The Music Hall stages.
Joining the cast as Rooster is Jeffry Denman who has performed, directed, and choreographed at Ogunquit Playhouse. He returns to the seacoast after directing/choreographing the highly acclaimed Ogunquit Playhouse 2018 production of An American in Paris, for which he won an IRNE award as Best Choreographer.
Rescue dog, Macy,will be playingSandy. Macy was adopted by guardian and trainer Bill Berloni from Rocky Spot Rescue of Oklahoma City, OK in December of 2009 at the age of 18 months after seeing her on Petfinder.com. Sandy’s first production of Annie was in the summer of 2010 and since she has starred in dozens of productions nationwide. On Thanksgiving Day 2011, she was seen on NBC during The National Dog Show, sharing spots with John O’Hurley.
Bill Berloni is the top recognized trainer for theatrical animals in the U.S. He received a Tony Award for Excellence in Theatre in 2011, honoring his 30 years of rescuing shelter dogs and humanely training them for a career in the entertainment industry. He is also the recipient of 2014 Outer Critics Circle Special Achievement Award and the 2017 Drama League Award for Unique Contribution to the Theater. Bill Berloni’s animals have appeared in hundreds of Broadway, Off-Broadway and regional theatre productions, tours, movies and television shows all starting with Annie in 1977.
Performed in a witty new adaption by Ken Ludwig (Lend Me a Tenor),
Written expressly at the request of the Agatha Christie estate.
Just after midnight, a snow storm stops the Orient Express in its tracks. The famous train is full, minus one passenger — an American tycoon lies dead in his compartment, his door locked from the inside. Director Spiro Veloudos has assembled a locomotive full of suspects – all with an alibi.
It’s the perfect mystery for none other than famed detective Hercule Poirot, n’est-ce pas?
Featuring: Remo Airaldi, Michael John Ciszewski, Scot Colford, Sarah deLima, Kerry Dowling, Marge Dunn, Will McGarrahan, Davron S. Monroe, Celeste Oliva, Rosa Procaccino the production will run from November 22 through December 22 at the Lyric stage at 140 Clarendon St., Copley Square, Boston.
GREATER BOSTON STAGE COMPANY RINGS IN THE HOLIDAYS WITH
MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET
Greater Boston Stage Company cheerfully presents Miracle on 34th Street– based on the much-loved motion picture from Twentieth Century Fox. Directed by Associate Artistic Director, Ilyse Robbins, Miracle on 34th Streetreminds us that if you really believe, anything can happen. Performances run November 29 – December 22, 2019.
“The miracle of 34th street is that people learn to believe – both in oneself and in the kindness of others. It is about faith. Not necessarily in the religious sense, but rather faith in what is possible,” shares Robbins. She continues, “Stories about kindness and goodness are needed now more than ever. There is such importance simply in the telling of stories like these.”
The cast features Barlow Adamson, Juliet Bowler, Margaret Ann Brady, Sara Coombs, William Gardiner, Sarah Gazdowicz, Arthur Gomez, Jade Guerra, Michael Jennings Mahoney, David Jiles, Jr., Gary Thomas Ng and Emme Shaw. As part of The Young Company Meets Mainstage program, the cast also includes Young Company actors Mia Galego, Shea Killeen, Graham Layton, Addison McWayne, Gwendolyn Symes, Norah Symes and Young Company Alum Stephen Zubricki IV, making his GBSC Mainstage debut.
Miracle on 34th Street celebrates the season by taking us to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in the 1940’s where Kris Kringle steps in as a last-minute replacement. When he claims to be the true Santa Claus, he needs to convince the doubters, including a little girl longing to find something to believe in.
Greater Boston Stage Company is dedicated to fostering an inclusive and accessible environment for all. A sensory-friendly performance of Miracle on 34th Streetwill be offered on December 21, 2019at 2:00 pm. The sensory-friendly production will be a performance dedicated to creating a more welcoming space for individuals with sensory-input disorders. There will be modifications throughout the theatre that create a friendly and supportive environment, encouraging patrons to experience the magic of theatre in their own way. Families, friends and caregivers of individuals with sensory-input disorders are also encouraged to attend. Please visit https://www.greaterbostonstage.org/sensory_friendly.html for more information.
Box Office: (781) 279-2200
Box Office Hours: Mondays – Fridays, 11am to 6pm; Saturdays, 1pm to 6pm Location: 395 Main Street, Stoneham, MA 02180
AN ENCORE PERFORMANCE BRINGS DENIS O’HARE BACK TO BOSTON
ARTSEMERSON PROUDLY PRESENTS
AWARD-WINNING ADAPTATION OF HOMER’S EPIC POEM RETURNS A HOMER’S COAT PRODUCTION IN ASSOCIATION WITH OCTOPUS THEATRICALS —— FOUR PERFORMANCES ONLY NOVEMBER 20 – 24, 2019 EMERSON PARAMOUNT CENTER ROBERT J. ORCHARD STAGE
Six years after its original Boston run, ArtsEmerson is delighted to welcome back Tony Award-winning actor Denis O’Hare and Lisa Peterson with their Obie Award-winning adaptation of Homer’s classic, An Iliad.
An Iliadspins the familiar tale of gods and goddesses, undying love and endless battles told through the eyes of a single narrator, whose enigmatic experience of the war reverberates with today’s headlines. Peterson’s acclaimed, cutting edge work as a theatre director here combines with O’Hare’s inimitable range as an actor to create a tour-de-force performance of this sweeping account of humanity’s unshakeable attraction to violence, destruction and chaos.
A visceral and breathtaking encore performance, An Iliadplays four performances only, November 20 -24, 2019, at the Emerson Paramount Center’s Robert J. Orchard Stage. Tickets may be purchased at www.ArtsEmerson.org, by phone at 617.824.8400 or at the box office.”We are really looking forward to returning to ArtsEmerson, where we built the tour of An Iliad,” says director and Homer’s Coat co-founder Lisa Peterson. “We have very fond memories of the Boston audience.”
“Denis O’Hare’s performance in An Iliadremains an indelible high-water mark in our first decade, and from the moment the lights went down on his first show at ArtsEmerson we began talking about bringing him back for an encore,” says ArtsEmerson artistic director David Dower. “That was in our third season, and ArtsEmerson has since gone on to establish a reputation for memorable solo storytelling– Daniel Beaty’s Mr. Joy, Melinda Lopez’ Mala, Thaddeus Phillips’ 17 Border Crossings, Alex Alpharoah’s Wet, and Isabella Rosellini’s Green Porno all followed. Denis and director Lisa Peterson delivered a powerful and thoroughly gripping adaptation of Homer’s epic text, and the intimacy and immediacy of the performance itself knocked us out. Our desire to share this experience with a wider Boston audience actually gave rise to the animating idea of our 10th anniversary season– bringing back five iconic moments from our first nine seasons and coupling them with five brand new commissioned works.”
Bill Hanney’s North Shore Music Theatre (NSMT) will once again present the area’s most beloved production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL This award-winning, original musical adaptation was created solely for North Shore Music Theatre in 1989 and cannot be seen anywhere else. A CHRISTMAS CAROL will play 14 performances from Friday, December 6 thru Sunday, December 22, 2019.
“It is hard to believe we are already at the time of year where we are getting ready to deck the halls and start telling this wonderful holiday story once again,” said NSMT’s owner and producer Bill Hanney. “Every year, I meet so many patrons who look at our production of A Christmas Carol as a cornerstone in their Christmas celebration with their families. Along with their introductions, a patron will almost always let me know immediately how many times they have seen the show, and how many generations of their family have enjoyed it since its first performance in 1989. It is always an honor to produce a show that means so much to so many people.”
Based on the Charles Dickens classic, A CHRISTMAS CAROL is an original adaptation by former NSMT Artistic Director Jon Kimbell and members of the NSMT staff, following Ebenezer Scrooge through a series of strange and magical ghostly encounters, where he ultimately discovers the true spirit of the holiday season. With dazzling special effects that have grown even more exciting over time, traditional and original songs, and colorful costumes, A CHRISTMAS CAROL has become a holiday favorite throughout New England having been seen by more than one million people since 1989.
NSMT audience favorite,David Coffee, returns for his twenty-sixth year playing Ebenezer Scrooge. A CHRISTMAS CAROL also features Leigh Barrett(TheGhost of Christmas Past, Mrs. Cratchit), Peter S. Adams (TheGhost of Christmas Present, Gentleman 1), Michael Gaudio (The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, Young Scrooge), Alex Puette(Jacob Marley), Tommy Labanaris (Narrator), Russell Garrett (Bob Cratchit), Dale Elston(Pearlie), Drew Porrett (Pearlie), Allsun O’Malley(Belle), Andy Tighe (Fred), Cheryl McMahon (Mrs. Dilber/ Mrs. Fezziwig), J.T. Turner (Mr. Fezziwig/Gentleman 2), Bernie Baldassaro (Ensemble),Michael Brennan(Dick Wilkins, Ensemble)Matthew Chappell(Old Joe, Ensemble), Cecilia Snow(Ensemble),Kate Turner(Meg,Ensemble), and Janelle Yull(Ensemble).
The cast of 27 actors will also feature many local young performers including Jack Baumkind (Tiny Tim), Ciaran Mohan (London Boy), Grace Olah (Belinda Cratchit), Asher Navisky (Peter Cratchit), Amanda Padre(Fan), Dylan Prime (London Boy), AJ Scott (Boy Scrooge), and Emilia Tagliani (Martha Cratchit).
A CHRISTMAS CAROLperformances are December 6 – December 22, 2019 (Evening shows December 6, 7, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, and 22 at 7:30pm; Matinees December 7, 8, 14, 15, 21 and 22 at 2pm). Tickets can be purchased by calling the North Shore Music Theatre Box Office at (978) 232-7200, via the website at www.nsmt.org or in person at 62 Dunham Road (Route 128, exit 19), Beverly, MA.
Throughout the run of A CHRISTMAS CAROL NSMT will be collecting toys in the lobby for Tiny Tim’s Toy Drive. NSMT will be accepting unopened, unwrapped toys for boys and girls ages 2 – 12. All toys will be donated to Toys for Tots.
ADDITIONAL FREE AUDIENCE ENRICHMENT EVENTS:
OUT at the North Shore, an evening for the LGBTQ+ Community with a post-show reception on Friday, December 13 after the 7:30 pm performance. OUT at the North Shore is sponsored by North Shore Pride.
As part of the Christmas Prelude program in Kennebunkport, Maine, Seaglass Performing Arts Chorale will be performing a program of music ranging from Gospel Spirituals to Mozart’s Magnificat in C Major.
This heartfelt expression through music of the desire for Peace on Earth this holidayseason will be performed at South Congregational Church, Temple Street, Kennebunkport, Maine on Saturday December 7 at 7:00 PM, and at the Holy Family Catholic Church, 66 North Ave., Sanford on Sunday December 8, 3 PM.
Tickets at the door are $15 for adults and $12 for seniors and for students ages 12 to 18. Tickets purchased in advance are $12 for everyone ages 12 and up. Children under 12 will be admitted free of charge.
Tickets available online CLICK HERE, at Morse Hardware in Wells, and at the door (cash only at the door).
Dates and locations
Saturday December 7, 7 PM
South Congregational Church, Temple Street, Kennebunkport, Maine, 04046
Sunday December 8, 3 PM
Holy Family Catholic Church, 66 North Ave., Sanford, Maine, 04073
Founded in 1993 by Artistic Director Jean Strazdes, the Seaglass Chorale is a non-auditioned adult choral group of 50-60 voices that has established itself as a voice to be heard! The chorale represents some 20 southern Maine communities and regularly performs throughout the area, with concerts in Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Wells, Sanford, Saco, and other regional venues. We are well supported by our longtime accompanist, Kimberly Karchenes.
Internationally acclaimed, Seaglass Chorale has traveled to Europe twice, performing in Rome, Venice, Innsbruck, and Budapest. In September of 2004, choristers proudly led the musical prelude at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.
The uniqueness of Seaglass events stems not only from the quality of its performances and the generous response of the community, but from its demonstrated connectivity to the community through its benefit concerts. Benefiting organizations include Habitat for Humanity, St. Thomas School in Sanford, the Sanford/Springvale Food Pantry, York County Shelters, Wells Historical Society, Noble High School, Child Abuse Prevention Council, and many others.
The chorale is often called upon in celebration of such diverse community events as the Nasson College Community Center dedication, Franciscan Monastery Anniversary, Laudholm Farms Building Inaugural, Holy Family Church (Sanford) Jubilee, and the Sanford Mainers baseball team playoffs.
In short, no other regional group integrates more fully in its diversity of intended audiences, music, events, and venues – always with its mission focus of performance opportunities through community service.
At SpeakEasy Stage Explores Privilege, Values, Snobbery,
Reviewed by Bobby Franklin
A few years ago I was watching a news program featuring a story about a successful inner city high school where most of the graduates were going on to college. It was an uplifting story, but one part stuck in my mind to this day. A young African American girl was asked why she wanted to go to college. She responded, “So I can be better than other people.” My heart sank when I heard those words.
In watching Joshua Harmon’s newest play Admissions, now at the SpeakEasy Stage Company in Boston, those words kept echoing in my head. The play which takes place far from the inner city, at a second tier, on the verge of being first tier, prep school in New Hampshire, deals with what happens when white liberals who are in a position of power, in this case expanding minority admissions to the school, talk the talk of making their school more inclusive and diverse and then have to face the reality of walking the walk when it turns out it means giving up their own privilege.
Sherri Rosen-Mason is the Head of Admissions for Hillcrest Prep School. Her husband Bill is the Headmaster, and their son Charlie is a senior who’s dream has always been to attend Yale. He has worked hard toward that goal and has the grades and test scores to show for it. Things don’t work out as planned when Perry, Charlie’s close friend who is biracial is accepted at Yale while Charlie’s application is deferred. Charlie believes it is his skin color that has made the difference.
I have seen three of Joshua Harmon’s plays, and he is a master at writing dialog. In the opening scene of Admissions the back and forth between Sherri Rosen-Mason (Maureen Keiller) and Roberta (Cheryl McMahon) who works in development at the school is both funny and telling. Roberta is working on the school catalogue and Sherri is critiquing her work for not showing how racially diverse the school is. It becomes a numbers game about how many students of color attend the school and if they are properly represented in the catalogue. More so, are minority kids made to feel comfortable when perusing it.
The conversation between the two on who qualifies as black enough becomes awkward for Sherri as Roberta cuts to the quick with just what Sherri is trying to say. While funny, the conversation can also make many in the audience feel uncomfortable as while the goal of being more inclusive is good, the discussion of putting people into boxes based on ethnicity has ugly overtones.
This combination of humor and questioning of values is also evident in Charlie’s diatribe when he confronts his parents about why he wasn’t accepted at Yale. Nathan Malin as Charlie is positively outstanding when he goes on about what he sees as the absurdity of figuring out who qualifies as a minority and who doesn’t.Sherri and Bill (Michael Kaye) are stunned by what their son has said. Bill, “It looks like we successfully raised a Republican”. Oh! The horror!
Another awkward moment occurs when Perry’s mother Ginnie (Marianna Bassham) is sharing her joy over her son being accepted to Yale when she realizes Sherri is implying he only made it because of his skin color. Later in the play Ginnie captures the difficulty her son and so many others have to face because many people feel that way. Marianna Bassham is terrific as always.
The part of the play I found most revealing was where Charlie had decided to take things into his own hands and walk the walk that his parents talked, and made his own decision about where to attend college. Bill launches into a revealing screed about how his son will now have to do such low level jobs as “tossing pizzas and bussing tables”. He also can’t contain his disgust for community colleges. It really does all come down to being better than other people.
While the play is meant to make people look at their own privilege, in this case white privilege, it is about much more than that. No matter how well intentioned people are, when it comes to getting ahead, or having their children get ahead, are they ever going to cede their connections and power to make things happen?
White liberals will see this play and feel appropriately guilty. But how many of them will be willing to have a minority student take the seat at the table they reserved for their son or daughter? And is that really the solution?
As with other Speakeasy Productions, I would love to see a more politically diverse audience attend and participate in a discussion. Joshua Harmon knows how to raise questions. He is not afraid to make people uncomfortable, and I would assume this includes himself. And, unlike so many of today’s authors, he does not preach. The audience has to grapple with these questions on their own.
Sherri’s words are very telling, “If you don’t have a school like a Yale or Harvard on your resume, that actually puts a ceiling on what’s possible in your life. And our son is smart enough to see that. Going to Yale means your life contains all the possibility in the world. Not going there, or one of a handful of schools like it, means there are tables you will never get to sit at, tables whose existence you may never know about.”
Keeping the table small means always putting limits on what people can achieve. Maybe it’s time to find new places to sit.
While it is easy when hearing about Admissions to put it in a box as a play by and for liberals, it should not be dismissed as such. This is an excellent work and a superb production. The talented cast is outstanding. The set which smoothly transitions from campus office to family kitchen is perfect. No matter your political beliefs, I would strongly urge you to pull up a chair to this table at the SpeakEasy.