Playwright: Joshua Harmon
At: Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. Tickets: TheaterWit.org and 773-975-8150; $25-$42. Runs through: May 12
Historically, the children of rich parents attended college, while those of poor parents were sent to trade schools. The mid-20th-century introduction of government-funded facilities offering a variety of curricula, however, has led to confusion over the differing purposes of these institutions, culminating in the popular myth of certification by the "right" school guaranteeing the recipient thereof a future blessed by both social and financial success.
This is the credo marketed by Bill and Sherri Masonrespectively, headmaster and admissions officer of Hillcrest prep, a privately funded secondary school grooming its gifted students for entrance to top-tier universities. In accordance with today's values, they stoutly support extending their services to youngsters of less privileged lineage, but on this particular day, the Masons have learned that their own son has been refused early acceptance at prestigious Yale Universityan honor readily bestowed on his mixed-race bestie.
If your response is to ask why young Charlie Mason can't simply enroll at some other college, you haven't been following the latest news reports ( which our play predates by an entire year ). At first, the distraught lad's progenitors comfort him as he vents anger and frustration at what he sees as refutation of his scholarly industry, but no sooner have his mentors reaffirmed their equal-access-for-everyone stance than Sherri embarks on a clandestine campaign aimed at reversing thehorror and woe!injustice inflicted upon her offspring. Even after Charlie recants his vituperation and expresses his willingness to advocate for the greater good, his sacrifice only spurs his elders to redouble their Macchiavellian tactics.
Director Jeremy Wechsler and an adroit ensemble reject the temptation to mock their misguided personae, but instead maintain an earnest intensity never giving way to comic exaggerationno easy task when the text includes a 20-minute rant delivered at full adolescent fury by Kyle Curry.
While the dramatic stakes in Joshua Harmon's incisive criticism may not invoke the all-inclusive sympathy of his groundbreaking ( and structurally similar ) Bad Jews, there is no denying the evidence of a generation claiming the moral high ground since the 1960s, having secured their lofty bulwark, abandoning their principles in pursuit of preserving the advantages gained therebyhubris deserving of examination by youthful inquisitors.