Now class, pay close attention, because I am only going to give this assignment once. If you are within a time zone or two from NYC, get yourself to the Westside Theater on West 43rd Street to see "Application Pending." I have not laughed this loud or this long since - well, since seeing "Craving For Travel" by the same writing team of Greg Edwards and Andy Sandberg. Mr. Sandberg also Directs this one act comedy that takes aim at the absurd world of the stress-filled process of applying to the elite pre-schools in Manhattan. In the universe that the playwrights have created, that application process is a blood sport, a take-no-prisoners all-out assault to insure that little Johnny or Janie is not denied an opportunity to start on a path that will allow him or her to one day cure cancer! The writing is nothing short of brilliant, with clever zingers and subtle allusions to cultural icons and titans of industry coming as fast as a speeding Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG). Think of the delicious irony of a school named "The Herbert Hoover School for Junior Capitalists"! The laughs are enough to cure a major Depression! There are cameo appearances, through the impressive impersonations by Christina Bianco, of the likes of George Clooney, His Holiness the Pope, a very legalistic Sister from Our Lady of Sorrows, several federal agents, a militant Native American, hysterical mothers of would-be students, an irate PETA vigilante, a ditsy first grade teacher with inappropriate designs on one of her hot young charges, a world class ice sculptor, a less- than-passionate caterer, the owner of Build-A-Bear and the head of Cosmopolitan Magazine. Did I mention extortion and allusions to pygmy cannibalism? This is quite a bouillabaisse of plot elements and colorful characters simmering to an eventual boiling point.
You have probably heard of the multi-talented YouTube sensation, Christina Bianco, whose videos impersonating the singing styles of divas of every stripe - from Celine Dion to Barbra Streisand - have gone viral. In "Application Pending," she plays the role of Christine, who has suddenly been catapulted into the role of Pre-Primary Admissions Officer for the prestigious Edgely Preparatory Academy. She is replacing Debbie, who mysteriously is now "pursuing other opportunities." Along the way, Ms. Bianco also plays 40 other characters, each clearly delineated and differentiated with unique accents, timbres, tics, postures and attitudes. Whether portraying the bullying Headmaster or the superannuated Kindergarten teacher, Ms. Bianco is remarkable in her ability to shift seamlessly from character to character with split-second timing. She is helped enormously by the clear Direction of Mr. Sandberg, the Lighting scheme of Jeff Croiter, the complex Sound cues of Bart Fasbender, Costume by Michael McDonald and the perfectly rendered Set by Colin McGurk.
|Christina Bianco as Christine|
Greg Edwards & Andy Sandberg
407 W. 43rd St.
Through April 19
Photo by Joan Marcis
As the deadline for filing applications looms, Christine fields a flood tide of phone calls, Wave after wave of desperate petitioners call in, the volume and ferocity of the onslaught matches anything that Hurricane Sandy dished out to the New York area. Underneath the rollicking surface of hilarious parody, there are some serious themes being addressed. The stressed-out parents who want to ensure that their offspring gain admission to Edgerly are trying to be "good parents," moving heaven and earth to provide a huge and expensive head start for their spawn. Yet it turns out that single mother Christine is the one who makes difficult choices that demonstrate what a caring parent really looks like and sounds like. The playwrights have a keen sense of balance in off-setting the biting humor of this piece with one or two poignant vignettes that add a caring heart to what might otherwise be a caustic and exaggerated exposé. The telephone relationship that develops between Christine and a working class single father is touching and heart-warming.
The actor and the creative team behind this play have already won many awards for their prior work. I have a sense that a new wave of awards will be forthcoming when this Off-Broadway season has been properly evaluated.
I cannot say enough about how impressive the work of Christina Bianco is in this play. Her performance has to be seen to be believed. Mr. Edwards and Mr. Sandberg have sliced and diced some delectable ingredients that Ms. Bianco has crafted into a gourmet meal of parody and comedy that is worthy of a 5-Star restaurant. The audience is eating it up and asking for seconds!
If the exuberant full house at last night's performance is any indication, this is going to be a show that generates a lot of buzz, and tickets will be at a premium. So, class, here is your final assignment. Click on the link below and order your tickets now before the deadline has passed and they are gone. And keep in mind that until you receive confirmation that your ticket order has been approved and accepted, all Applications Are Pending!