BWW Review: ADMISSIONS Highlights The Good, Bad, And Ugly Of White Liberalism

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BWW Review: ADMISSIONS Highlights The Good, Bad, And Ugly Of White Liberalism
(l-r) Jennifer Underwood and Rebecca Robinson
Photo courtesy of Jarrott Productions

ADMISSIONS is presented in Austin by Jarrott Productions. The newest work from Bad Jews playwright Joshua Harmon, it premiered on Broadway in March 2018. The play garnered rave reviews and the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Award for Best New Play. The dramedy explores the concepts and contradictions of white liberalism. Sherri Rosen-Mason (Rebecca Robinson) is the head of admissions at an elite New England prep school. Along with her husband (Tim Blackwood), who is also the school's headmaster, she has been largely successful in continuing to diversify the traditional institution's student population. But when their son, Charlie's (Tucker Shepherd) Ivy League dreams are deferred, their progressive values begin to give way to parental ambition.

At the core of the play is a family examining what it means to benefit from white privilege in a racially biased society. Additionally, it shows how far parents are willing to go to see their child succeed. Director, David Jarrott succeeds in turning Joshua Harmon's words into an accelerant that forces white progressives to reexamine themselves and where their allyship stands. This production starkly displays the characters' problematic views and statements while still leaving room for audiences to relate to the family's dynamic. In the end, the play is left unresolved and open-ended leaving plenty of room for discussion post-show.

The entire cast deftly approaches the ebb and flow of the 90-minute piece. Unfortunately, at this performance, last-minute technical errors rendered the production without music or sound effects. Presumably, this affects the energy and pacing initially, but the cast was able to recover from the unforeseen hurdle. As concerned mother Sherrie, Rebecca Robinson taps into the unsavory pitfalls that are often associated with white liberalism. Her sentiments on representation and inclusion are admirable but shaded with self-righteousness and personal ambition. It's only when those beliefs are tested that the facade begins to crack and the passionate rhetoric fades away. There is a revolving door in which characters rotate between socially aware and deeply problematic. At any given moment the audience may relate to or root for a character that eventually is revealed to be just as unaware as their counterparts. Favorite performances are given by the delightful Jennifer Underwood as the well-meaning and often clueless, Roberta and Tucker Shepherd as Mason's confused and grappling son, Charlie. Rounding out the cast, Tim Blackwood and Beth Burroughs also vitally contribute to the play's proceedings especially in its sharpest, sobering moments.

ADMISSIONS highlights the good, bad, and ugly of white liberalism. A concept that has become synonymous with walking the equitable walk until it gets too uncomfortable. The characters represented are neither heroes nor villains, but this story demonstrates that even the most well-meaning person can still be detrimental to progress. Gripping and unsettling, ADMISSIONS offers an uncomfortable, but desperately needed check-in for white progressives that consider themselves allies to People of Color.

ADMISSIONS is now playing at the Trinity Street Playhouse (901 Trinity Street, inside First Baptist Church of Austin, 78701) through October 6th. Thursday through Saturday at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2:30pm. Please note - this play includes mature language and content.

Running time (approximately): 1 hour and 30 minutes with no intermission

Ticket Prices: $25 *Student and military discounts available

*Pick A Price Performance - September 26th (tickets starting at $5)

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From This Author Lacey Cannon Gonzales