OnStage Playhouse Brings Another Great One

Admissions by Josh Harmon Takes on Privilege and Quotas in the U. S Education System

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

Holly Stephenson and Wendy Waddell. Photo Ana Carolina Chiminazzo

I admire Playwright Josh Harmon's work because it dives deep into specific issues and then does a whole theatre essay on them. After seeing Bad Jews and Skintight, I was looking forward to Admissions. The play also made me realize how glad I am to have gone to school in Mexico. I guess all countries have their monopolies and chess boards regarding admission to college however, I do not think there is something as bureaucratic and debt-heavy as going to school in The States. 

Bill (Tom Steward) and Sherri (Wendy Waddell) are married and both work at a boarding school in New Hampshire called Hillcrest (the local San Diego coincidence made me laugh). Bill is the headmaster and Sherri is the dean of admissions, obsessed with numbers and eager, school year after school year, to bring those diversity quotas up by practically handpicking non-white students to be featured in the school's brochure. Sherri's co-worker and Development Director Roberta (Anna Sandor), also in charge of taking the photos to be on the brochure, is an older white lady that just does not understand the obsession. At one point in her frustration, she even specifies not knowing these students' sexual preferences or religious beliefs and mocking Sherri about it being diverse enough for the brochure. Anna Sandor is the chips in a chocolate chip cookie. From the mannerisms to the voice tones...Costume Designer Pam Stompoly did a wonderful job dressing Sandor as well as the other cast members but, my favorite definitely, was Roberta. Perfectly accented with a The New Yorker tote bag with a change of shoes in there, a fanny pack, and a perfectly knotted scarf. I believe it was a joined effort with Director James P. Darvas who as well as selecting a wonderful piece of work again, brought the life of all these personalities in a passionate and accurate way. 

Anna Sandor, Wendy Waddell. Photo Ana Carolina Chiminazzo

These spot-on scenes take place in Sherri's office that has been carefully put together adding wonderful touches by OSP Estefania Ricalde, like Mexican Lele dolls both Brown and Black, as well as Asian and African-American figurines. 

Sherri and Bill aside from being woke and being dedicated to their professions, also have a strong reason for their tenure at Hillcrest: Their son Charlie (Devin Wade) who is about to graduate and is expected to get into an ivy league school. Charlie does everything with his best friend Perry who is biracial and has been highlighted in the infamous catalog. They both apply to Yale but Perry gets in, Charlie gets deferred, and his head explodes. Devin Wade delivers a powerful and wordy monologue about privilege, color, and race. In general, Wade's lines are very wordy throughout the play and he delivers all the notes.

The color and race wordy monologue amongst pointing out other facts, questions the privilege of a Chilean schoolmate that  Charlie has and who is considered "white" because his bloodline comes from "Spanish conquistadors" and does not understand why there is privilege regarding the diversity quota being that this particular schoolmate is Latinamerican. So what does diverse even mean? Charlie asks. Something that has made the world spin well, forever. The icing of this hullaballoo cake is Ginnie (Holly Stephenson) Perry's mom, a white woman married to a Black man and friends with Sherri. When his son does not receive the celebration she was expecting, she points out other race facts that others just have not noticed. It would seem that Stephenson is the scene icebreaker but really, she is the scene booster at times. 

Tom Steward, Wendy Waddell, Devin Wade. Photo Ana Carolina Chiminazzo

Harmon hits the head on the nail with these recurring issues and questions them through the characters. What seems like a spoiled brats rant with Charlie, does shine some specs of truth in the reality of American double standards and labels. It also shines a light on the perspective in each generation from Roberta to Sherri and Bill, to Charlie and his "generation of glass". The tough love in generation X and the lack of notion regarding race, of babyboomers. 

When Charlie decides to leave it all behind, go to community college and donate his college fund to POC kids, then Sherri and Bill's heads explode. Ah, the tables turning. 

I do not think there has been a time when Wendy Waddel has disappointed. Gifting the audience with a thought-out version of the seasoned Academic. The fact that Tom Steward's British accent was kept for the part, adds even more complexity to the nature of this admissions situation. Both of them team up and bring it. 

Many corporate mission statements on this side of the planet have been focused on diversity quotas for a while but not as much as when everything changed in 2020. Theatre companies are catching up and trying to deliver both authentic works and quotas (let us be honest). Not only is OnStage located in the South Bay when the rest of the theatres are more in the middle and towards the north side kind of serving the same audience, but I also believe it is the theatre company that has been consistent before these waves and now is adding more fuel to the fire. Let us continue to join in and get warmed up.

Admissions is currently playing from Thursday to Sunday until February 27. Tickets are $25 dollars for adults, $22 for seniors and students under 30. For more information click here or call 619 422-7787.


  1. Thank you for this. I like how your reviews have 'meat' to them, from highlighting the small details (the New Yorker bag) to teasing out the nuances in performance that are easy to miss.

    1. I appreciate that. Writing has always been an important form of expression. It is a struggle often because of the second language thing, but getting the hang of it more and more. Thank you for reading and commenting!