Admissions: Do You Meet the Requirements for Acceptance


  • a statement acknowledging the truth of something
  • the process or fact of entering or being allowed to enter a place, organization or institution

Joshua Harmon’s play, “Admissions” is a play about choice or rather the lack of choice, depending upon which side of the coin you are on. In this case, the choice is race. Most specifically, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion. Its setting is the prestigious college prep school, Hillcrest, in New Hampshire.

Photo by Adam Wilson-Hwang

Sherri Rosen-Mason (Christina Reeves) is the ultra-liberal admissions officer, who has worked like a dog to turn Hillcrest’s 4 percent students of color to 18 percent. It is the crowning achievement of her 15-year career there. We meet her as she is dressing down the Roberta, (Beverly Skoll) the older development head who has put together the school’s new admissions catalogue and has, in the 52 photos, only included three students of color. Does Roberta not understand, asks Sherri, that if nonwhite students read the catalogue, they will not see themselves there and therefore why would they want to go to Hillcrest. Sherri tells her that 18% is embarrassingly low, but it is 300% better than when she and her husband Bill, the school’s liberal headmaster took the reins. Sherri asks Roberta if she does not care about diversity… Roberta responds she does not see color. She is not “a race person”.  

And so it begins. For the next ninety-plus minutes we are assaulted with a vitriolic bombardment of an all white cast defending inclusion or questioning their stance on it by other members of the white cast.  Sherri, beautifully crafted by Christina Reeves is both likable and at the same time despicable. We can admire her strength of fighting the good fight for inclusion and diversity, but end up resenting and objecting to her obvious self deceiving cries of the flag waving “some of my best friends are Black attitude”.

Poor Roberta is just trying to do her job and suddenly gets hit with the tidal wave of Sherri. Roberta is a fairly stereotypical person of a certain age who truly does not see color in her day-to-day world, but then, she probably lives in a generally white washed world and has never had to think about or deal with racism except perhaps on the early news.  Skoll does the deer in the headlights perfectly, going from total what are you talking about to why are you yelling at me for something I don’t know what you’re carrying on about. 

Photo by Adam Wilson-Hwang

Enter Charlie, the raging son of Sheri and Bill who cannot understand why he was deferred admission to Yale while his best friend, Perry, the biracial son of a white mother and mixed race father is accepted when clearly Charlie has better extra grades, better in sports and happens to be just white. Charlie’s rant which lasts about 10 minutes is one of the most captivating finest pieces of theatrical work seen on the stages of the Capital Region in quite some time. More remarkable is Vlad Panchishak, the 21 yr old University at Albany senior, is appearing in only his second theatrical production. This young man was born to be on a stage; his controlled rage, emotional highs and lows leave you holding your breath waiting to exhale when he finally finishes his 10-page opening monologue. And while Vlad’s performance is outstanding, Charlie comes off sounding less like a 17-year-old high school senior and more like a frustrated 30 something playwright. Harmon’s fire and brimstone bravado comes spewing full force out of the mouth of this idealistic disillusioned youth. 

Here comes Bill, Charlie’s dad played by Bill Shein who gives all of the nuanced virtuoso performance to which the part lends itself. He tries to combat Charlie’s explosion by telling him “he’s an over-privileged brat” and “a racist spoiled little sh*t”. 

What we come to realize as the play unfolds is that for all their liberal blustering when it comes to the world around them, Sherri and Bill will do whatever they can to see that their privileged son gets into a reputable Ivy college regardless of what he may think he wants.

Photo by Adam Wilson-Hwang

Olivia Sblendorio as Ginnie, Perry’s white mom, rounds out the cast with the brief nod to the ‘I guess I do not really know my best friends all that well’. Patrick White has again hit a home run with his direction of the impeccably crafted troupe of performers. He lets the audience in on the dirty little secrets allowing each performer the opportunity to present their case, flawed as they might be.

If there is a fault to be found it must go squarely on the shoulders of the playwright who manipulates his audience and performers. The play superficially presents to its audience a very skewed presentation of white bias and hypocrisy. 

Admissions is an ensemble piece. No one part is substantially more or less important than another. Vlad is the company stand out and more than holds his own in the crowd of experienced seasoned performers. Admissions will give you pause for thought. For a show that had to fight to be seen in this area after COVID caused it to be canceled, rescheduled, and moved locations, it is so worth the wait.

Admissions will be performed Saturday, March 5, and Thursday thru Saturday, March 10-12 at the Albany Barn 56 Second St. Tickets are $15. for more information: 

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