Erika Scotti and Elizabeth Dimon.
Erika Scotti and Elizabeth Dimon.
Photo by George Schiavone

GableStage's Admissions Is a Timely Tale of Affirmative Action

This week, a racial discrimination case against Harvard claiming that the university discriminates against Asian-American applicants went to trial. Students for Fair Admissions, the group bringing the suit, also sued the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill earlier this year. Over 100 colleges could be next.

Beyond college diversity, the case could have implications on affirmative action in employment, government contracting, armed forces, and public schools. As issues of race seem to divide the country with all the grit and grace of a third-grader learning her math tables, the new play Admissions could not be timelier — or funnier.

Admissions introduces a Northeastern prep school’s husband-and-wife team of administrators promoting student diversity. When their only child sets his sights on the Ivies, a cauldron of principles and practicalities goes California wildfire as they explore what it means to be white liberals.

GableStage’s producing artistic director Joe Adler explained what inspired him to choose Admissions as the final production of this current season, his 20th with GableStage.

“I saw the play at [New York’s] Lincoln Center at the very first preview performance. I wanted to see it so badly because I happen to like the playwright’s work so much," says Adler, referring to playwright Josh Harmon. "As a matter of fact, we did a very successful production of his last play, Bad Jews.

“And I decided that night that this was a play that I wanted us to do," he says. "And immediately, at that point, started to do everything I could to get the rights. So actually, it’s only about seven-and-a-half months since that night that we’re doing it, which you know, is pretty quick, pretty rare.”

John Wahl and Joshua Hernandez in Admissions.
John Wahl and Joshua Hernandez in Admissions.
Photo by George Schiavone

The more Adler worked on Admissions, he says, the more he appreciated its complex appeal. “It’s rare that I get a chance to do a play that got rave reviews from papers like the New York Times and at the same time the National Review, which of course, is conservative as hell."

It's also remarkable that the play is happening at all. Against all odds, the show goes on despite losing an expected grant from the state of Florida. Gov. Rick Scott recently slashed 90 percent of arts funding, leaving GableStage, which received $94,424 from the state for its 2017-2018 season, with a grant of $9,962 for its 2018-2019 shows. On opening night, Adler reminded the audience that the theater is relying on attendance and donations more than ever.

“The things we do with the best of intentions will sometimes have unintended consequences and that’s what this play is about,” Adler says. One unintended consequence of the governor's cuts may be that the GableStage troupe’s resolve reverberates like never before. You feel it in Adler's voice. And it carries the cast's performances, elevating an already timely and well-executed production.

Admissions. Through November 11 at GableStage at the Biltmore, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables; 305-445-1119; gablestage.org. Tickets cost $15 to $60 via gablestage.org.

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