Fort Worth — Some plays seem written strictly because they’re fun for actors, perhaps born in a comedy sketch class and then stretched out to a one-act play or longer. Take Application Pending, written by Greg Edwards and Andy Sandberg, in which one actor plays dozens of roles, the main one a woman who has been thrust into the job of a pre-primary admissions office at a tony Manhattan prep school.
Fun for the actor, yes, if it’s a skilled one who can change accents and voice tones in micro-seconds, as is the case with Janelle Lutz in her debut at Fort Worth’s Circle Theatre, directed by Jennifer Engler.
Lutz plays Christine, who worked at the prep school and then finds herself “promoted” to the person who has to deal with administrators and, worse, parents of students and prospective students. And this is one of those schools where Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s kids might go, so the parents are more than a little high maintenance. Many of them are outright adult-babies.
It’s lightweight, but that’s OK when the sharp production makes it fun for the audience, too. In that sense, and the construct, it’s similar to Becky Mode’s Fully Committed.
Lutz, who Dallas audiences have loved in leading musical roles at Lyric Stage and Brick Road Theatre, and in a spectacular performance as Judy Garland at Uptown Players, flips through 40 characters, and always back to Christine, as effortlessly as scrolling through a social media feed on a smart phone.
These include the Southern-accented Mrs. Beverly, a parent; Russian businessman Boris; society woman Mrs. Drinkwater; Sisters Jones, a headmistress at a Catholic school; expectant mom Stephanie; gay dads Bruce and Chad; a man described as a “wee thespian”; a Scandinavian ice sculptor, FBI agents, reporters and George Clooney. There’s even a Judy Garland cameo. Perfect.
Clare Floyd DeVries’ set of an office and a classroom are typically detailed, and there’s plenty of stage business—phones, office supplies and equipment—to keep Lutz occupied so that when she’s merely sitting at the desk and on the phone, it feels like a break.
Except it’s not. Lutz is always busy with tasks for her hands or voice—almost always multi-tasking.
A lot of the jokes land, but Lutz’s voices and characters shifts are what make it funny. In the course of 90-minutes, Christine arcs from a mousy employee overwhelmed by the calls, to a confident bad-ass who wins the day.
Application Pending may not be important or transformative, but director Engler and performer Lutz make sure the laughter is nearly nonstop. Sometimes, that’s all you need.