by Lynn Marie Macy · February 7, 2014
Playwrights on New Plays #38 Lynn Marie Macy visits NJ Rep and comments on Admit One Admit One by Wendy Yondorf is a delightful new comedy currently premiering at New Jersey Repertory Theatre in Long Branch. The play explores how far a parent would go to get his child into a prestigious university. In this instance the fictional Giddings University, which is on a par with Harvard or Yale. Super wealthy Giddings donor Howard Everett (Ames Adamson) has requested a questionable meeting with Mary Sue Creek (Catherine LeFrere), described as the Admissions Officer from hell (or should I say “Admission” Officer). Mary Sue is as particular about language as she is about neatness and propriety. They meet in a suite at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City and Howard Everett uses every influence and manipulative tool in his arsenal to convince this rigid, quirky Admission Officer (and ambitious German scholar) with OCD and a chip on her shoulder to accept his son’s prep school classmate into Giddings University along with his son before the classmate can accuse his son of date rape. And this is funny? Yes it is! Everett insists his son is gay and therefore innocent and the stories get wilder from there.
Yondorf’s amusing script brings to mind a contemporary Plaza Suite and like Neil Simon the quips and comedy take you on a bumpy journey to an unexpected conclusion. Yondorf lambasts everything from helicopter parents, to Ivy League elitism to the State New Jersey “New Jersey students are Princeton’s problem”, after all.
Director Karen Carpenter hits a few roadblocks at the onset, which drags and feels a bit awkward initially but eventually she hits it out of the ballpark for a home run. Once the show gets on a roll she keeps the pace unrelenting and our interest transfixed.
The Waldorf suite by set designer Jessica Parks is extremely well done. She has transformed the small stage of New Jersey Repertory into a spacious feeling, charmingly and believably appointed bedroom suite with depth and perspective. Lighting by Jill Nagle and costumes by Patricia E. Doherty perfectly assist in delineating character and locale.
Ames Adamson as the wealthy and desperate Howard Everett does an expert job at maintaining his onslaught despite every setback brought on by the unpredictable reactions of his dueling opponent. His performance was impressively detailed considering the twists and turns his character ultimately endures.
Still the revelation of the evening comes in the form of Catherine Le Frere who so amazingly embodies the irritating, nit picking quirkiness of Mary Sue from beginning to end that I wanted to laugh and smack her at the same time. Her deterioration from prim, stuck up know-it-all to simpering disheveled mess is hilarious and despite some mispronounced German close to perfection. Brava!
Yondorf’s witty play is ultimately a wry and surprisingly uplifting examination of the masks we all wear. The show runs to February 16th and if you can plow through the snow and ice it is sure to brighten your evening.