Christina Bianco–who recently gained internet stardom thanks to her talent for impressions of pop and musical–theatre icons–takes some of her hilarious YouTube schtick to the stage in the Off Broadway comedy Application Pending, Andy Sandberg and Greg Edwards’ featherweight take on the brutal world of New York prep school admissions.
The Forbidden Broadway vet plays Christine, a single mother on her first day as director of admissions at the exclusive Edgely Prep, and also provides the varied voices for the countless people that call to harangue her. There’s the overbearing stage mother. There’s the teacher with a serious case of vocal fry. There’s the PETA activist angry over Edgely’s beaver mascot. There’s the domineering headmaster. There’s the Southern belle whose son needs recommendations, and gets them from the likes of the Pope and George Clooney–also voiced by Bianco. The list goes on.
Bianco is certainly doing some heavy lifting, and after some early awkwardness with less-than-seamless transitions, she sells each character heartily as an individual. As the play progresses, it’s possible to forget there’s just one actress on stage doing some very impressive juggling. The production, directed by co-scribe Sandberg, helps her along with the aid of some savvy lighting, which serves to highlight who’s on the other end of the line.
Still, even at a short 75-minute run time, Application Pending feels thin. The production’s jokes come relatively cheap, and it occasionally plods when trying out edgy sex or race-based humor (a recurring bit involving an oversensitive Native American financial-affairs employee falters). The show is packed with references that cater to New York theatergoers, though savvier patrons might roll their eyes more than once; one man that calls sings The Phantom of the Opera when learning our heroine’s name is Christine—get it? The most successful running gag involves the Walter White-esque dealings of the woman who held Christine’s position prior to her start. Christine’s predicaments get tied up almost too neatly in the end, as circumstances allow her to engage in some advantageous blackmail. Application Pending eventually doesn’t quite make the grade, save for the considerable, enviable skills of its leading lady. B-