How far would you be willing to go to get into your dream college? Or if you’re a parent, what lengths would you go to for your child to have a shot with one of the most prestigious universities around? Is hard work enough, or do you need connections, the right zip code, and tons of privilege and cash to stand a chance in this competitive sphere? The new Manhattan Theatre Club Broadway production of Dan Cody’s Yacht will have you asking a lot of these questions and more.
The inspiration for the show itself — and the characters’ course of action — comes from a brief and oft-overlooked scene in The Great Gatsby. The show follows the lives of struggling Boston suburb-area schoolteacher and single mother Cara Russo (Kristen Bush) and a wealthy single father of one of her students, Kevin O’Neill (Rick Holmes). The characters meet because Cara teaches English literature in the upscale public high school where Kevin’s son Conor (John Kroft) attends classes, and she calls in his dad for a conference when he fails an essay on, wouldn’t you know it, Gatsby.
Kevin tries first to financially bribe his son’s teacher into dishing out a passing grade, but when Cara doesn’t jump at the offer, he pushes further into her life. He explains that he knows about her teenage daughter (Angela, played by Casey Whyland) at home, who goes to the underfunded, neglected, and less prestigious school on the wrong side of the tracks. Unlike his own son, she’s brilliant and dedicated to her schoolwork — and he starts proposing ways Cara could get her daughter into the better high school to kick start her academic future. He even has investment plans for how Cara can work with him on insider stock trading, and earn enough to fund a new house, a top university, and anything else she could dream of for her family.
Now, Cara isn’t into corrupt strategies and get-rich-quick schemes. It also all sounds too good to be true. But she also worries that she’s holding her daughter back by not having the means to send her to the best school possible. Not only is she not thriving at her current high school, but the family barely has enough funds to send her to college anywhere at all, forget the top tier schools she’s dreaming of. And after all, isn’t the game all about who has the top SAT scores, fanciest AP tutors, and alumni connections?
You can see where the tension comes in, and why she’s tempted to cave her morals for the sake of her daughter. Is she getting scammed? Is she seizing an opportunity? Or is it something else altogether?
The story is one we can all relate to in some way, whether we feel the pressure to live up to others’ standards, or we feel distrustful of those people who say they’ve got the easy answers we’ve been searching for. As you watch this story unfold, you can find yourself identifying with each of the leads, who have multi-dimensional and dynamic reasons for each of the behaviors they exhibit. You won’t really know which character to “root for,” because sometimes stories just aren’t about “bad guys” and “the underdogs.”
Dan Cody’s Yacht is now in previews at the New York City Center’s Stage I, which is located at 131 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019. The show officially opens on June 6, 2018. You can pick up tickets at the box office or on the theater’s website now.