Melbourne embarks on admissions – The Australian Jewish News

dark comedy about white privilege” that “revels in discomfort” as director Gary Abrahams describes it, Admissions asks, “what are you really willing to sacrifice for your ideals?”

Described as “surprising and daring” by The New York Times, Admissions is a fast-paced, biting comedy by bad jews playwright Joshua Harmon, who promises to spark uncomfortable conversations about race, ethics, class, privilege and the higher education system.

Audiences will talk about it “like crazy on the way home,” actress Deidre Rubenstein said, speaking to The AJN ahead of the play’s season in Melbourne at the Southbank Theatre, The Sumner opens at the weekend.

Staged as an MTC production with Abrahams at the helm, whose previous credits include the Australian productions of bad jews and 33 variantswith Oscar-winning actress Ellen Burstyn.

In a personal confession, Rubenstein said she initially wondered if the piece was merely “provocative for” the provocation.

But when she read the script, she was “pleasantly surprised” and ultimately won over by Harmon’s work.

“I really admired her,” Rubenstein said of the delightful piece, which she says is “relevant to all of us…but not didactic.”

“It deals with many, many, many aspects, like a prism… and so you see another side, another side, and another side and another side” of the root issues.

“The dialogue is fabulous,” added Rubenstein, who she says made her role “a pleasure to play.”

A veteran of Australian stage and film, Rubenstein won the AFI Best Actress Award for her role in Palace of Dreamsthe ABC miniseries about a Jewish family running a hotel in Sydney in the 1930s. She has played roles ranging from Gertrude Stein in the musical love to repeat to a scheming neighbor on… well, Neighbors.

For this role, Rubenstein will draw on a unique vein of modern American liberal angst that has taken hold in various contexts around the world.

The MTC production retained the New Hampshire greenhouse setting of the original, with its characters placed literally at the doorstep of the Ivy League – the entrance pursuit in which is the basis of their careers and personal hopes. deeper.

In AdmissionsRubenstein plays Roberta, a staff member at an elite prep school who, early in the series, is given the thankless task of making the school’s brochure more diverse for her boss Sherri.

Played by Offspring Kat Stewart, Sherri is immensely proud of her accomplishments in increasing the proportion of non-white students in her school and eager to do more for the cause.

However, Sherri is soon thrown into a tailspin when the kind of admissions system she’s been advocating for years — specifically, affirmative action aimed at increasing opportunities for less privileged students on the basis of race — backfires. bite personally. .

Sherri’s 17-year-old son Charlie, played by Harry Potter and William McKenna from The Cursed Child, is left on the deferred list for entry to Yale, while her seemingly less qualified friend Perry, who has a mixed-race father , is left straight in.

The question of the whiteness of a Jew like Charlie, in the eyes of an administrative system seeking to altruistically discriminate based on racial history, is just one of many hot buttons the play hits, while of course keeping the focus on the personal lives of the characters. impulses, hypocrisies and struggles.

“Josh Harmon’s writing goes for the jugular, and like a cat with a mouse, it plays with you,” Abrahams wrote.

“The play boldly proposes a catch-22 situation in which there is no way for the characters to win without suffering a big loss. And the nasty game he plays with the public is that he forces your allegiances to change in no time.

Rubenstein has remained staunchly silent on the kind of dilemmas and inversions that await the characters. Still, she wanted readers to know that the piece “packs a punch” in its compact length. And that despite the tight runtime, Admissions will leave audiences with plenty to discuss, as well as plenty to enjoy, thanks, in Rubenstein’s words, to “fabulous” and funny dialogue and a “stunning” cast.

Rubenstein found the play’s attitude to resonate with his own cultural upbringing.

“It’s not at all ‘that’s how you should think,’ and I would never want that…it’s this very Jewish debate.”

“As Jews, we are very concerned about ethics, aren’t we?

Admissions runs at the Southbank Theatre, The Sumner from March 5 to April 9. Reservations: mtc.com.au

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