By Madeline Schulman
You cannot be admitted to prestigious Giddings University, because it is imaginary, but you can be admitted to NJ Rep and have a wonderful time at Wendy Yondorf’s hilarious comedy, Admit One.
The set by Jessica Parks shows a suite at the Waldorf Astoria, where Mary Sue (Catherine Lefrere), admissions officer (or admission officer, as she insists) from Giddings University has come to meet with rich alumnus Howard Everett (Ames Anderson).
Knowing this set-up, I anticipated a comedy about the difficulties of buying admission to college. I thought Howard would insist that his donations to Giddings insured his son’s admission and that Mary Sue would refuse on moral grounds, but I was pleasantly surprised by a much funnier and more original plot.
Dirk Everett will certainly enroll in Giddings. As the father says, “Sometimes you make accommodations for benefactors.” This meeting with Mary Sue has been engineered to persuade her to fast track the application of Ellen Mackerel, who is blackmailing Dirk with an accusation of date rape – an accusation Ellen will drop as soon as she is admitted to Giddings.
Mary Sue does not want to acquiesce. Although an excellent student, Ellen does not fit the Giddings profile!
Lots of humor blossoms from this situation. There is physical slapstick, nimbly acted under Karen Carpenter’s lively direction. There is character humor, as Catherine Lefrere showcases all the sides of Mary Sue’s character – pedantic, obsessive, and simultaneously bossy and insecure. Her smile is amazing, seemingly showing more teeth than humanly possible. She constantly corrects Howard’s grammar and vocabulary, and displays a compulsive neatness to rival Phil Hartman’s Anal-Retentive Chef.
Ames Anderson gives a brilliantly nuanced performance as reclusive billionaire Howard Everett.
To top it off, there is New Jersey humor, including a timely reference to the “bridge-closing Governor”, and Mary Sue’s dismissal of students applying from New Jersey. “They’re Princeton’s problem!”
The play also features a shout out to Robert Pinsky, the Poet Laureate from Long Branch.
All in all, Admit One is a wonderfully funny and entertaining play, which the audience members leave feeling happy. Maybe they will even gather tips on writing an impressive college application essay!
Admit One will be shown through Feb. 16 at NJ Rep, 179 Broadway, Long Branch. Performances are Thurs. and Fri., 8 p.m., Sat., 3 and 8 p.m., and Sun., 2 p.m. For tickets and information, call 732-229-3166 or visit www.njrep.org.