by DB Gilles
Directed by Sherri Eden Barber
Canal Park Playhouse, 508 Canal Street
January 25, 2012 — February 18, 2012
production web site

Reviewed by Martha Wade Steketee
February 1, 2012

L-R Kathryn Kates, Charise Greene, Richard Hoehler. Photo by Jim Baldassare.

Academic political maneuvering generates humor and pathos and tension. The academic admissions inspires anxiety (and humor and pathos and tension). Theatre academics generate, well, you get the picture. This play about an admissions committee for a unspecificed graduate theatre program is intended to evoke all these things. And yet, despite solid performances, because the scripted process followed is less than fully believable (three person admission committee and offers of jobs and contributions on the fly) and the characters as written present unidimensional organizational creatures, the ride feels like an exercise in playwriting rather than fully-realized and embodied characters. Rebecca Gilman‘s Spinning Into Butter might come to mind, in which faculty deal with a post-admission student issue.  In Gilman’s play, individual characters are given room to breathe and thrill and haunt.  In Inadmissible, characters deliver punchlines (some of them quite good), taking corporate decision-making to a smaller scale.  Here it’s all about the organizational actors not about the students at all.

Elaine (Kathryn Kates) is the chair of our mythical department. Martin (Richard Hoehler) is her colleague and teaching peer, scheming to take her position in the not-too-distant future. The third member of their committee debating the merits of various applicants to admit into their next MFA cohort (all seem to be playwrights but that detail is not made crystal clear) is in the hospital after a severe allergic reaction to shrimp, and to complete the cohort (and reel in an alum’s son whose admission might engender a significant theoretical contribution or a young woman whose well-connected mother might yield prestige and a sizable contribution to the program) Elaine and Martin enlist the temporary decision-making services of adjunct professor Joanna (Charise Greene), herself a graduate of the program some years before who is seriously interested in a permanent full-time gig.  It’s a game of career chess with limited stakes and single moves revealed — the aha moments are telegraphed minutes before any of the moments come.  Farce without the slamming doors.

Direction by Sherri Eden Barber is static, though the minute playing space presents its own challenges, once you insert chairs and desks that force all movements to be out and around.

© Martha Wade Steketee (February 7, 2012)

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