note: entire contents copyright 2004 by Carl A. Rossi
Sam, et al Ö John Kuntz
Actor-playwright John Kuntz has become a Christmas fixture in Boston, by now: heís the sourball among the sugarplums, an alternative to all of the Scrooges that dot the landscape in December. This yearís holiday offering is Becky Modeís FULLY COMMITTED at the Lyric Stage, a day in the life of Sam, a struggling actor who co-manages the reservation line for a snooty four-star restaurant in New York; left to fend for himself, Sam is bombarded on the phone or the intercom by the ego-driven staff and from clients, rich, powerful or otherwise, who demand a table reservation despite the restaurant being booked up --- uh, fully committed --- from the Christmas season well into February; the actor playing Sam plays thirty-nine other characters as well. Having once worked for a well-known celebrity chef, Ms. Mode has much on which to dine yet I canít help feeling that FULLY COMMITTED is personal revenge against New York restaurant society rather than satire, especially when Sam turns numerous tables in Act Two and takes control of his life (had the play ended with its Act One, it would have been a Beckett-esque tragicomedy; instead, the upbeat ending all too neatly counteracts the venom that has bitten into the evening).
Earlier this season, director Spiro Veloudos helped to take the Nordic chill out of A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, now he has partially thawed out Mr. Kuntz, and all for the better: Mr. Kuntz gets to grimace and screech, as usual, but only as the staff and clients; his Sam is simple, subtle and actually rather likeable; even at his most intense, the character never turns mean-spirited or nasty in the familiar Kuntz manner. And Mr. Kuntz is both dazzling and endlessly inventive, here, vocally and physically (a priceless moment: when a rabid bitch smells a negotiation tactic, her clawlike fingers suddenly wave back and forth like seaweed in an ocean current) --- only Thomas Derrah could have matched Mr. Kuntz, locally, in this exhaustive (and exhausting) tour-de-farce (the program lists special thanks to Mr. Derrah who, no doubt, helped supply some hues to Mr. Kuntzís dark-toned palette). The Gold Dust Orphans have begun to mix the serious with the comic in their romps; after FULLY COMMITTED, Mr. Kuntz may feel inspired to take a few more steps towards the sunny side of the street. He still doesnít have a heart, actor-wise, but his Sam indicates he knows where it would be beating should he ever attain one.