Jiehae Park’s “PEERLESS” at Yale Rep, through December 19


By Tom Nissley

Listen up. “Peerless” is the funniest and perhaps the best play of the entire Connecticut year. It’s a world premiere, besides. What you should do, immediately, is call for tickets, and get your place secured. Then read on.

The story of “Peerless” involved two Asian-American twins, young women, M (Tiffany Villarin) and L (Teresa Avia Lim) in a small mid-Western high school, who have relocated with their upscale family to that town so their diversity will make them shoe-ins to “The” College. One of the twins has dropped behind a year, so that her sister can be accepted this year, and in the following year she will be automatically “in” as a legacy student. It’s an airtight plan and a wonderful take-off on the anxiety that permeates the college application process all around us.

But there’s a snag! It turns out that there’s an even more diverse student in their high school (he’s 1/16 native American) and he’s been accepted. “The” College only accepts one student from the town each year, so their airtight plan is scuttled, and unless they take drastic measures to revise who’s available they won’t get in. Ethics are not much involved here. In fact, the author says she’s based her script upon “Macbeth,” so we shouldn’t be surprised when the action tends towards murder. Without giving away the rest of the plot, I’ll just tell you that it gets only funnier and more complicated, and there’s sort of an explosive ending.

One bright spot is the character referred to as Dirty Girl (Caroline Neff). She’s a sort of Cassandra, who often doesn’t talk, but occasionally predicts events. She teases M in class, calling “Hail, hail, hail…”, which would make her a type borrowed directly from the Scottish play’s three witches. The combination of creative writing and excellent directing (Margot Bordelon) is overwhelming, and the electric set by Christopher Thompson, enhanced with great projections by Shawn Boyle – add in sound by Sinan Refik Zafar and lighting by Oliver Wason – gives the production a regular Yale Rep high style.

But one very nice aspect of “Peerless” is that it could be produced in a much simpler way and still retain all of its biting humor and impact. In that sense it’s a really fine new play that deserves awards for the writing, the flawless production, and an ensemble of actors that simmer together like a fine stew roiling up to boil.

You can tell I loved this play. But you won’t know how much until you see it for yourselves, so go to www.yalerep.org or call 203-432-1234 for tickets. Now!

Tom Nissley, for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre

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