December 13, 2016
Special to The Alexandria Times
Fully Committed comes with so much stage cred, it’s hard to know where to start – so I’ll start with the underpinnings. Drum roll, please. It is directed by Alan Paul, whom we know and love as the Associate Director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company and for his countless productions ranging from Shakespeare to musical theatre to concerts, including opera at the Kennedy Center.
Written by Becky Mode, an alumna of HBO, Disney, Nickelodeon, Columbia Pictures and ABC, this nifty one-man comedy is coming off a successful Broadway run, and MetroStage’s Artistic Director, Carolyn Griffin has scored a major coup in getting it here. The original has been newly revised for this production and features the immensely talented and highly endearing, Tom Story, who juggles 40 different characters at warp speed.
Story plays Sam, a struggling actor who has taken an in-between-auditions-and-gigs job as a reservations clerk at a Michelin-starred, Manhattan-based temple of cutting edge molecular gastronomy. Arriving at his basement office, he discovers that the other two reservations clerks, Sonya and Bob, have ditched him at the height of the holiday season and he is left to fend for himself against all the self-entitled crazies and their outrageous requests. Add to that a staff consisting of a haughty, bi-polar, French chef with a drug habit, a prissy hostess, a Latino sous chef and a kindly manager of Indian descent.
Presto chango! Story cycles through an astonishing array of accents from Brooklynese and Manhattan Old Guard, to Cockney, French, Indian, Italian (a mobster needs a table STAT), a helicopter pilot with a lateral lisp, a Southern drawl from an octogenarian who overshares her medical issues, the flat nasal voice of a Midwestern accent and a Transylvanian-sounding caller willing to pay a bribe – a table for a heaping wad of cash. Of particular hilarity is Story’s interpretation of Gwyneth Paltrow’s swishy assistant, Bryce, who phone-friends him with increasingly insistent updates of Ms. Paltrow’s demands for a special vegan tasting menu and the most flattering lighting. (Bryce will bring golden-hued Edison bulbs to replace the harsh sconce lights.) Famed British chef Heston Blumenthal is channeled when he shows up unannounced to find his reservation is missing and the restaurant is “fully committed”.
Throughout the mayhem Sam takes calls on his private cell from his supportive father and rival Jerry, another out-of-work actor who updates him on his shiny prospects just as Sam is at the end of his rope. To add insult to injury, just as Sam is hoping to join his family for Christmas, he gets a call from the chef telling him he must work through the holidays.
As we see, it’s not just the constant phone calls for rezzies, it’s the intercom micromanaging between the front of the house and the kitchen that challenge Sam’s sweet demeanor. As amenable as he seems he’s no dummy and when he discovers co-worker Bob has been faking a car accident to get out of his shift, he begins to see the light.
Story’s ability to convey these absent callers through accent, emotion, and gesture is a triumph to behold.
Highly recommended for anyone who has ever dined or eaten in a restaurant. And that means, you!
At MetroStage through January 8th – 1201 North Royal Street, Alexandria, 22314. For tickets and information visit www.metrostage.org.