BWW Review: Janelle Lutz is approved in APPLICATION PENDING
Everyone can agree on the importance of proper education. But, what if you don't get into the right school? And, do you have to attend a private school to make it into an Ivy League school? There can be a lot of stress and strain around the application process. In Circle Theatre's latest production, Janelle Lutz proves she isn't solely a musical theatre genius and shows off her acting chops by transforming herself into over forty different roles, taking the audience through the roller coaster of emotions that surrounds the "high stakes" of kindergarten admissions in the wildly funny, often irreverent APPLICATION PENDING.
APPLICATION PENDING, the one-woman show written by Greg Edwards and Andy Sandberg (not to be confused with Andy Samberg of SNL fame . . . but still just as funny), is the story of a kindergarten assistant, Christine Evans, who finds herself unexpectedly covering the admissions office of an elite New York private school on one of its busiest days: the day applications are due. With parents calling non-stop on one side and trying to please a cruel boss on the other, Christine doesn't seem to be able to win. Add to that trying to uphold family responsibilities, and she might as well just give up now. The script is hysterical, the "dialogue" is witty and the plot twists are unexpected and entertaining. But, it would be nothing without the lead actress portraying all of the various characters.
Although standing ovations have become commonplace in theatre culture, few earn the praise as much as Janelle Lutz did on her opening night performance. From the minute she walked onstage, she brilliantly and fluidly transitioned back and forth from timid Christine Evans to the parents calling about their children's applications to the gym teacher to an FBI agent and many more. (Fans will be excited to know that there is a glimpse of Ms. Lutz' famed Judy Garland impression, as well.) Each character had their own appropriate accent, physicality and intentions - and for the most part is meant to be just a caricature. But, Ms. Lutz finds the heart in the story to take it from farcical sketch comedy to a story about the meaning of parenthood.
The only minor weakness, which should not at all be a deterrent to seeing the play, would be some of the technical aspects. The lighting, designed by John Leach, was a little confusing. It was clear that there was a concept that I, as an audience member, did not understand because, while each phone call had similar lighting changes, they did not seem to coincide with anything that I could place my finger on and didn't feel natural. After a while, though, I just went with it. The sound, designed by David H.M. Lambert, for the most part was solid, especially considering the number of phone rings and on hold beeps required. However, there was a joke about the Monster Mash that ended up falling flat because the audience couldn't hear a particular sound prop.
Although this is a show about kindergarten admissions, this is definitely a play for the grownups. There is some language and incredibly inappropriate, yet amazingly hilarious content to this show. Be ready to laugh, gasp, shout and cheer - possibly all at the same time. The show runs now through November 18th at Circle Theatre. Tickets are available at http://www.circletheatre.com.