Monday, December 7, 2015

Theater Review: Peerless -- Yale Rep

Teresa Avia Lim and Tiffany Villarin. Photo © Joan Marcus, 2015
Competition for a Slot at the Right College Can Be Peerless
By Lauren Yarger
How far are teens willing to go to get into the college of their choice? And what (or who) are they willing to sacrifice to make it happen?

A stress-filled, high school somewhere in the suburban Midwest is the setting for Yale Repertory’s world premiere of Peerless, by Jiehae Park (winner of the Leah Ryan Prize and Princess Grace Award).

High-achieving Asian twin sisters M (Tiffany Villarin) and L (Teresa Avia Lim) are shocked when one of their classmates, D (JD Taylor) gets an early acceptance, and M does not, to THE college – the highly selective one for which the girls have devoted their lives to gain acceptance.

How could this happen? M has a 2,400, 4.8 weighted 4.0 with 16 APs and has taken piano on Sundays since she was 5 years old to make sure she would be the one that was selected. L even stayed a back a year so the twins wouldn’t be competing for the same coveted spot – and so she could be sure to be accepted the following year on sibling privilege. So how did their fat, nerdy classmate get in instead of M?

It might have been that he discovered he is 1/16 Native American. Or it could be that essay he wrote about the challenges of caring for a brother with Cystic Fibrosis.  It doesn’t matter. The girls begin a plot to get rid of D and open up the spot for M, who surely must be next on their list.

When M’s boyfriend, BF (Christopher Livingston) gets in the way, he is in danger too.
The twins might just might pull it off, except for Dirty Girl (Caroline Neff ) – you know the one – that one girl in every class who is weird and hasn’t showered in a while. Somehow, she seems to know all about the twins and their evil plans. They might dress alike except for their backpacks (Sydney Gallas does the costumes) and smile sweetly, but she knows their secrets. If the sisters can just stick together, they might be able to achieve their goals. But let’s just say that Fight Director Rick Sordelet is listed in the credits for a reason…

Park’s script is humorous and a blistering commentary on today’s practices to get into the right school. Margot Bordelon directs the fast-paced piece, but needs to sharpen attempts to have the twins speak over each other and complete each other’s sentences. During these bits, the dialogue is hard to understand and plot points are missed.

The action plays out in one act on a colorful, modern-looking set designed by Christopher Thompson (with projections by Shawn Boyle) and is enhanced by original music by Sinan Refik Zafar, who also designs the sound.

Peerless runs through Dec. 19 at Yale Repertory Theatre, 1120 Chapel St., New Haven. Performance times vary. Tickets are $20–98: www.yalerep.org; (203) 432-1234. Student, senior, and group rates are available.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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