As out-of-work actor stories go, Becky Mode’s Fully Committed is funnier than most. It is also one of the oddest.
In the restaurant trade, fully committed is apparently the fancy way of saying a restaurant is fully booked. As in “tough luck Charlie, if you didn’t have the wherewithal to book three months in advance, we’re pretty sure you’re not the type of clientele we want anyway.”
Our out-of-work actor, Sam, played with a surprising frantic calm by Shane Snow, is trapped in the basement of an unnamed yet obviously high-end New York restaurant. It is Sam’s job to not only deal with the endless inquiries for tables, but he must also deal with the front-of-house and kitchen upstairs by intercom. Heck, even the chef has a direct line to Sam, which we are pretty sure would be red if we could see it. In between the calls for reservations are calls from Sam’s family, friends and even his agent, all of who seem to drag him even further into despair (“I didn’t know you still worked there” becomes the familiar refrain).
Did I mention that Snow plays all of these other characters as well? In this non-stop 60 minutes, Snow must switch between playing Sam to every other person he interacts with on the phone. Moving at its dizzying pace, Snow rarely has time to breathe as he moves from character to character, spinning on a dime as he participates in both sides of a particular conversation.
On opening night, Snow faltered a few times as he forgot which character was next and had to ask for assistance from the booth, but it didn’t take long for him to get back up to full speed. Snow is likable enough despite his problems and rides Mode’s wave of sad-sack to comeuppance with skill.
Oddly though, Fully Committed often felt more like an actor’s exercise than anything for an audience. As Mode’s structure insists that the dialogue is performed virtually non-stop, the comedy sometimes feels less than satisfying, as we are not allowed to laugh at the jokes. It rarely allows the actor to explore anything of substance.
Actors will get it, which appeared to be the biggest group at last night’s opening, but the theatre-going public may be somewhat disappointed, especially if Snow fails to make it without faltering.
Fully Committed by Becky Mode. Directed by James Fagan Tait. On stage at the Havana Theatre (1212 Commercial Dr) until October 25. Tickets are available online.