APPLICATION PENDINGBy Greg Edwards & Andy Sandberg
Director Jennifer Engler
Stage Manager/Prop Design – Megan Beddingfield
Production Assistant – Khira Hailey
Lighting Design – John Leach
Set Design – Clare Floyd DeVries
Sound Design – David H. M. Lambert
Christine Evans – Janelle Lutz
Reviewed Performance: 10/21/2017
Reviewed by Chris Hauge, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
And marvel I did last Saturday night watching “Application Pending”, Circle’s latest show. The play, written by Greg Edwards and Andy Sandberg, is a lightning quick look at the first day on the job for a new pre-primary admissions secretary at Edgely Preparatory Academy, an elite private school in Manhattan. Christine Evans (played by Janelle Lutz) is nervously awaiting the calls from parents regarding their pending applications for admission (Ms. Lutz may as well be wearing a lamb costume with the sign “Sacrificial” hanging from her neck). Our insecure heroine is about to be overwhelmed.
She is about to be overwhelmed by herself. “Application Pending” is a one-person play, a tour de force feast for the talented Janelle Lutz. The script challenges her with a daunting forty-three characters to portray and Ms. Lutz tackles each one with gusto and skill. The self-generated onslaught of parents and co-workers provide us with the chance to see the central character, Christine, grow from over-whelmed victim to a woman with budding confidence and knowledge of how to game the system for her own benefit. All of this in ninety minutes with no intermission. It is wonderful to watch. I’ll be more specific about Ms. Lutz’s performance in a moment.
The need for status among those whose money and position, driving them not only to keep up with the Jones make sure the Joneses are green with envy, is insatiable. It infuses everything in life, including getting their child into an elite pre-school or kindergarten. To ensure that goal, all the stops are pulled out and the moral high ground is converted to a marsh. And the people in the power structure of Edgely Academy, dependent on the money of the elite, think of themselves as elite as well and treat anyone who isn’t part of the moneyed class with disdain. Playwrights Greg Edwards and Andy Sandberg aim their words these people who are inflated by their own importance and fire them with pin-point accuracy. The targets may be easy pickings, but Mr. Edwards and Mr. Sandberg hit their prey with hilarious results.
Aiding them in their hunt is the production team at Circle Theatre. The set is an elaborate secretary’s office (designed by Clare Floyd DeVries), Christine’s desk is on one side and a play area for visiting children on the other. It gives Ms. Lutz a wonderful space to move about, not only as Christine but also as the many characters she inhabits, at times adjusting things on the set as if they were in their own home. Director Jennifer Engel is to be commended for her clever use of the set and for her work with actor Janelle Lutz. I would imagine this was a collaborative process, using the tools of directing and acting to produce such an excellent product. The lighting design (John Leach) and the sound design (David H. M. Lambert) are also an amazing part of this entertaining spectacle.
Backing the incredible performance by Ms. Lutz is the board operator for lights and sound. Like the sole actor on stage, Kyle Ward was working constantly throughout the ninety minutes. He is to be commended for the accuracy of the execution of the cues. There must have been countless sound and light cues to manage and he was right there each time for Ms. Lutz, supporting her and providing the visual and aural framework for the actor’s cavalcade of characters.
And what a cast of characters Ms. Lutz presents to us. We have a Jewish mother who proudly presents her son’s acting resume’ as proof that he should be accepted to Edgely. There is a friendly southern belle who, when informed she still needed some personal recommendations for the child to complete the admissions form, solicits them from unusual places and provide Christine with phone calls from unexpected people. She also makes calls to and receives calls from colleagues at the Academy. There is the school teacher whose sexual comments around the children are so outrageous that she should consider another career, as a stripper perhaps, so she can be as far away from children as possible. There is the elitist financial aid officer who believes the school is exclusively for the “heritage-rich”. Also, making Christine’s first day on the job a living hell is the school administrator, (his calls are announced with the beginning of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and the lights take on a reddish, ominous feel) who has no problem treating underlings with contempt.
That is barely the tip of the iceberg. What impressed me most about Janell Lutz’s performance was her character of Christine, and no matter what wild character came out of the woodwork, she snapped back to her sharp and totally believable portrayal of the main character. And her characters were all differentiated by voice and the physicality Ms. Lutz gave them and the exchanges between Christine and the characters were crisp and precise. In previous reviews I have sometimes talked about the slowness of pace that can afflict some shows. That is not the case here, and one actress is doing all the talking. Ms. Lutz’s timing is impeccable. She got laughs not only for the written jokes but also for her brave use of pauses (there is a bit with a green light and her reaction almost had me rolling on the floor). Janelle Lutz gives a wonderful performance with non-stop energy and joy. At the curtain call she ran her hand across her forehead and exhaled, indicating the effort involved in the ninety-minute workout. But I bet there was also a sense of pride in having tackled this mountain and then reaching the summit in glory. Hers is a truly great performance.
That’s it. I can’t think of more to say, except to recommend that you treat yourself to the wonder of this show. I guarantee you will laugh yourself silly and have a great time.
230 West Fourth Street, Fort Worth, TX 76102
October 19, 2017 to November 18, 2017
Thursdays – 7:30PM
Fridays – 8:00PM
Saturdays – 3:00PM and 8:00PM
For more information and tickets call the Box Office at (817) 877-3040
Or visit circletheatre.com