Regional Reviews: New Jersey
Admit One Seems Poised For Wide Popularity
The setting is an executive suite at a posh, venerable New York hotel where Mary Sue Creek, a young admissions officer for the elite Giddings University, is meeting with the middle-aged, wealthy alumnus and major benefactor Howard Everett.
Mary Sue is under the assumption that Everett has arranged the meeting and paid for her flight to New York in order to ensure the admission to Giddings of his son Dirk, who has been falling apart in a major way his senior year at an elite prep school. That would be an easy one. However, Everett is seeking Mary Sue's commitment to admitting Ellen Mackerel, a prep school classmate of Dirk, who has charged him with date rape but will drop the charges in exchange for admission to Giddings.
I would not be surprised if this were a pretty easy one, too, but, the nerdy, needy, and unsophisticated Mary Sue finds that dealing with Everett's request is out of her league.
Wendy Yondorf manages to fill her play with a full range of aspects of the college admission process which are certain to be greeted with rekindled memories, and a combination of rueful and joyful laughter. While a number of elite universities are mentioned by name, Yondorf cleverly makes certain that we will be thinking Harvard in lieu of Giddings.
At present, Admit One is slow getting out of the starting gate. There are too many bits of business which overly caricature Mary Sue before her identity is established. One result is that, thereafter, it takes too long for us to accept Mary Sue as being even the most incompetent of seven-year veteran admissions officers. Reign in and tighten the play's early exposition and add in some additional stories and stratagems of the college admission process, and the sky's the limit for it. As it stands, Admit One is also a delightful primer for college admissions information.
The New Jersey Rep production is exemplary. Ames Adamson, who is a reliable mainstay of many New Jersey stages, embodies the brash confidence and manner of a dynamic one-percenter and has the timing of a brilliant comic actor. Catherine LeFrere is a delightfully frazzled Mary Sue, who reveals unexpected foibles and facets most adroitly. Director Karen Carpenter is no stranger to intelligent, commercial comedy (she directed the original production of Nora and Delia Ephron's Love, Loss and What I Wore). Her smooth and inventive production perfectly complements the play.
Jessica Park's lavishly furnished hotel suite with sitting room (front), and bedroom and bathroom (rear) is a joy to behold. On NJ Rep's tiny stage, yet! Patricia E. Doherty's sharp costumes help define the characters. I doubt that Ames Adamson ever has gotten to wear a sharper, better fitting designer suit than what Doherty has given to him.
What a terrific high concept comedy New Jersey Rep has found. With a bit of tweaking, Admit One is poised to become a widely produced critical and popular success.
Admit One continues performances (Evenings: Thursday, Friday, Saturday 8 pm/ Matinees: Saturday 3 pm; Sunday 2 pm) through February 16, 2014, at the New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch, New Jersey 07740; box office: 732-229-3166; online: www.njrep.org.
Admit One by Wendy Yondorf; directed by Karen Carpenter