One Spot Only, Success At All Cost: ‘Peerless’ Review

All Emory students have had to complete a college application. While we’ve all experienced the inevitable stress and competitiveness of the process, most of us haven’t considered murder as a means to secure a spot at Emory. But that’s exactly what “Peerless,” Dooley’s Players latest show, imagines. Written by Jiehae Park and directed by Angela Yang (20C), “Peerless” transports audiences to a quirky, funny world that explores the hectic college application process.

The show debuted on Nov. 14 at the black box theater inside the Burlington Road Building. About 40 people filled the small theater’s seats. Bad weather did not stop Yang, chair of the Theater Studies program, students and faculty from attending the performance.

The play is a high school adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” The Asian American twins M (June Kwon(20C)) and L (Anna Ree (21C)) find out that D (Chris Lowery (20C)), a white man with 1/16th Native American heritage got accepted to their dream school in the “affirmative action spot,” so they decide to murder him. The college then admits BF (Matthew Nails (22C)), a black student and former boyfriend of M instead, so the twins have to conduct a scheme against him as well. Because of this series of crimes, the conscience of M and L is called into question, and their relationship gets complicated by their nefarious deeds. The play’s structure is fairly close to that of “Macbeth” with M and L as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, respectively, D as King Duncan, BF as Lord Banquo and Dirty Girl (Julia Byrne (20C)) as the Three Witches. 

The most impressive parts of the production were the set and costume designs which were innovative and authentic in every detail. Three walls, which were made of Scantron sheets, acted as the backdrop, creating a stressful and intense atmosphere. Then, the acceptance letters from the college fell from a tub on the ceiling which suggested that these letters were viewed by the characters as divine messages from God. Another surprising choice was the casting of M and L as the original play features identical twins. Kwon and Ree in this production, however, looked very different, if not the opposite. M was portrayed as a nerd, whereas L was much skinnier, taller and more social. These lead characters also had contrasting color schemes — M wearing red and L wearing yellow. This contrast made the claim that other characters cannot tell them apart harder to believe and the critique of Asian stereotypes stronger.

Killing someone to get into college clearly seems like an exaggeration, but the play is still relevant and inspiring, especially at the end when L gets accepted into Emory and the school’s alma mater rings throughout the theater space. It makes the audience members question themselves after the show — whether this toxic competitiveness is really over after they get into college or if college is simply another round of competition along their long and bloody journey to success.

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