Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Fully Committed"

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note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Heleni Thayre

"Fully Committed"

Reviewed by Heleni Thayre

A bit of a fluff piece, "Fully Committed" does not have the bite nor the edgy humor of another one man show playing in town now, "The Santaland Diaries" starring John Kuntz as a gay-actor-elf surviving in the City. Still, "Fully Committed", written by Becky Mode, "a former actress-waitress-coat check girl," probably plays well in New York where so many people are in show biz and earning their daily bread working in restaurants like the main character Sam.

Sam (Mark Setlock) is closeted in the basement office of one of New York's toniest, priciest, most popular restaurants, answering phones and booking reservations. (This slightly under hour and a half show has no intermission and the only set is the one you see when you walk in to take your seat.) It is an amazingly tacky space containing a messy desk, a big blackboard and a RED hotline phone connected directly to the Chef. The room is windowless and decked with tasteless paper wreathes and Christmas trees and garlands like the kind you might find in a sub shop and ominous signage warning employees to say "no" to Ned Finlay. We can only imagine the contrasting elegance of the dining room upstairs judging from the importance and wealth of the callers struggling to get reservations from Sam, and the cost of the entrees. This is the set and, for the most part, the plot too. Deep social commentary is not what we are talking about here.

Still it's an O.K. play -- fun, catty and with a sort of borderline tour-de- force performance by Setlock. He takes on all the varied characters from maitre de Jean Claude and the Chef, to callers such as Naomi Campbell's flamingly gay secretary, Sam's fellow-reservationist, Bob, who has not shown up for work to relieve him, Jack (or Frank?) a rival actor, Sam's own father, Sam's theatrical agent, and countless would be diners including the hyperventilating "Mrs. Seebag". Each has a different voice and body language, every one portrayed by Setlock, and it's a miracle that Setlock doesn't become hopelessly tangled up in the great number of varied characters and speaking styles, but he doesn't.

One of the more interesting things about the script is the personal story line that weaves in and out of the overload of restaurant related calls that Sam is fielding. Somehow he manages to take and make enough personal calls on this busy workday for us to get a rather dismal picture of his life in New York City, as well as his frustrations on the job at the restaurant. He is a bit down on his luck as an actor, losing out to his friend Jack at every turn. One of the many thousands who come from out of state in search of The Big Time, at the moment Sam is preoccupied with trying to get Christmas off from work to go home and visit his dad. But out of this difficult day of massive frustration a light emerges. Through happenstance and luck - and opportunism - Sam is able to wrest the reins of his life from the old troll who's been holding them and exit, singing, into the world outside this claustrophobic cubicle.

Nicholas Martin directs the show, which is presented at the Wilbur in conjunction with the Huntington Theatre as part of the latter's subscription series.

"Fully Committed" (till 14 January)
Ye Wilbur Theatre, 106 Tremont Street, BOSTON