Sometimes, the world of college admissions really can be a matter of life or death.
The world premiere of Jiehae Park’s witty and fast-paced play “peerless” opens at the Yale Repertory Theater on Dec. 3 and runs until Dec. 19. Featuring a cast of five actors, the play’s storyline weaves together a number of themes in unexpected ways, allowing for surprise and suspense. Director Margot Bordelon DRA ’13 described the play as having truly a musical score, in which the rhythm and emotional authenticity of dialogue are equally important to the performance. The play explores the conflict between sisterhood and selfish interest, exemplified by the relationship between its protagonists, twin sisters M and L. Dean of the School of Drama and Artistic Director of Yale Repertory Theater James Bundy said the show is a high-adrenaline production due to the plot’s life-and-death drama.
“The play explores the statement ‘I would do anything to get into college,’ and what the furthest you can go with that is,” said Amy Boratko DRA’13, the Rep’s literary manager. “It asks what the American Dream is, and finds comedy — until it’s not.”
The storyline of “peerless” shares common themes with “Macbeth,” Park said, adding that she chose her play’s title directly from one of its scenes. Even so, Park stressed that Shakespeare’s classic tragedy was merely an inspiration. Her play, she explained, is not a modern retelling of “Macbeth” — it is more of a riff than an adaptation.
Many of the play’s themes touch upon the realities of Ivy League admissions, though Boratko explained that “The College” around which the plot is centered remains nameless because of Park’s desire to convey that no particular university was necessarily a universal dream shared by all students, but instead a specific goal of the twins in the play.
“It’s such fun to do a piece here about the lengths people are willing to go to get into ‘The College,’ because Yale is considered one of ‘the colleges’ in the U.S.,” said Bordelon. “College admission requirements have become so absurd in the past decade, and this play really satirizes that whole process.”
But the storyline was not modeled on the playwright’s personal experience of applying to university, which was “relatively random and laid back,” she said.
Instead, Park explained, the play focuses on the experiences of traditionally high-achieving students — the sort who, Park added, would be devastated if rejected from the colleges they were “supposed to” attend.
“This is a play about ambition for a community filled with ambitious people,” Bundy said. “I think a lot of audience members are going to see parts of themselves in the characters.”
Beyond the realm of college admissions, Bordelon emphasized the overarching struggle between love and ambition as one of the play’s important themes.
“[The message of the play] is not about one school, but about anything involving striving to the pinnacle,” Boratko said.
The performance runs for approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.