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‘Admissions’ review: Joshua Harmon’s new play a winning black comedy

The Off-Broadway production tackles affirmative action with complex characters.

From left, Jessica Hecht, Andrew Garman and Ben

From left, Jessica Hecht, Andrew Garman and Ben Edelman star in the new play "Admissions." Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel

‘Admissions’ runs through May 6 at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. 150 W. 65th St., lct.org.

Affirmative action, teenage angst, elite private schools and well-meaning liberals become targets for satire in Joshua Harmon’s winning and wicked black comedy “Admissions.”

The new play is being produced Off-Broadway by Lincoln Center Theater under the direction of Daniel Aukin (the 2015 Broadway revival of “Fool for Love”).

Charlie (Ben Edelman, overemotional and over-the-top), an upper-middle-class, high-achieving high school senior at a New England prep school, has learned during basketball practice that his best friend, Perry, received early acceptance to Yale. Charlie, on the other hand, has been wait-listed.

Convinced that he is the victim of reverse discrimination and that Perry was admitted because he is biracial, Charlie, who is white, launches into an unhinged, rambling, endless, self-pitying diatribe.

“I am standing right here. I am a human being just like him and I am standing right here,” Charlie declares, remembering how admissions officers were more interested in talking to Perry than him when they toured colleges.

Charlie’s parents Sherri (Jessica Hecht, soft-spoken and spacey) and Bill (Andrew Garman, laid-back and amused) — who are also high-ranking officials at his school — are horrified by Charlie’s self-entitled display. But they are even more unprepared for the subsequent plot twists, which will bring into question their long-held political beliefs and hard-won professional achievements.

Sherri may be even more ridiculous than her son. In the first scene, she lashes out at an overworked colleague (Ann McDonough) for not including enough photos of minority students in the school’s latest brochure and condescendingly accuses her of racism.

Harmon (whose recent works include “Bad Jews” and “Significant Other,” which briefly played Broadway last season) once again proves himself to be a versatile playwright who can explore relevant cultural topics with a critical eye, complex characters and entertaining screwball comedy.

The play is set in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election. And while this is never directly mentioned, one suspects that Harmon wrote the play in reaction to the most extreme attitudes and behavior on both sides of the aisle.

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