Saturday, August 10, 2019

Review of "Fully Committed"*

Poor Sam.  An actor waiting for his big break, he spends his down time slaving over the telephone reservation line in the basement of one of the most exclusive restaurants in New York City.  The dour and melancholy employee is constantly barraged by big shots and everyday people with feeble appeals, bullying threats, and cajoling pleas for a prized lunch or dinner reservation.  In addition, his co-worker is missing in action, the upstairs staff is uncaring to his needs, and the chef is a scolding, unsympathetic and disinterested dolt. 

So, sets the table for the comical, somewhat poignant, one-man show, Fully Committed.  Starring Jamison Stern as the harried gatekeeper to a gastronomic nirvana, this light weight, 80 minute one act is humorous and entertaining, nothing more, nothing less.  Stern is a man constantly in motion as he flits from telephone to desk to pacing around his cramped subterranean headquarters.  Along the way, he portrays numerous characters—from persons desperately trying to make a reservation, to family members, to the employees of the unnamed dining spot.  The actor clearly is enjoying himself as he immerses his own persona into the jumble of characters he impersonates.  He is mostly even-tempered, yet a bundle of kinetic energy.

Playwright Becky Mode gives a knowing nod to the frenetic world of restaurant reservations.  She packs the show with amusing quips and incidents.  One ongoing scenario has the assistant to actress Gwyneth Paltrow continually call with one more outrageous request after another including bringing her own lightbulb to the restaurant to make sure she is not bathed in a harsh glow.  Mode gives the play an easygoing, plausible narrative structure, which by its conclusion sees Sam move from a woeful nobody to a more assertive somebody.

Director Bill Fennelly skillfully guides Stern through his chaotic paces.  He has conspired with the actor to incorporate a multitude of nuanced gestures, facial ticks, and vocal somersaults to the bevy of characters portrayed.  All of this takes place in a highly detailed, meticulously jam-packed set by Scenic Designer Brian Prather.  The result is an engaging and enjoyable piece of theater.

Fully Committed, a diverting and pleasing production playing through September 1st at Theaterwork’s temporary home at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum in downtown Hartford.

*Portions of this review were previously published.

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