“Fully Committed” is the term a pricey New York restaurant demands its reservations clerks use to inform potential guests that there’s no room for them at the table. It also describes what an actor has to be to take on 40 characters in a solo show that centers on the harried life of one of those clerks.
That show, not-so-coincidentally titled Fully Committed, is running at the Raven Performing Arts Theater in Healdsburg through October 17.
Sam Peliczowski (Troy Thomas Evans) is a struggling New York actor (is there any other kind?) who’s barely making ends meet as a reservations clerk for an unnamed New York restaurant. It’s the type of trendy establishment that specializes in “molecular gastronomy” and serves dishes like “crispy deer lichen atop a slowly deflating scent-filled pillow, dusted with edible dirt.”
Sam’s co-worker is AWOL, so he’s left to answer a non-stop series of phone calls from Manhattan’s elite as they attempt to score an elusive table. Sam also has his hands full dealing with an obnoxious chef, a flustered maître d’, a rival actor, and Sam’s recently-widowed father, who wants to know if his son is coming home for the holidays.
Evans plays all these characters and more, with changes in physicality and voice to denote the difference as he bounces between the phone, an intercom, the chef’s direct line, and his cell phone. One minute he’s talking to Gwyneth Paltrow’s assistant to assure him legumes will NOT be served at dinner and the next minute he’s dealing with an irate senior citizen calling to complain that upon review she’s discovered her AARP discount was not applied to her bill. Other callers include a local mobster, a film studio rep, and the persistent Carolann Rosenstein-Fishburn.
Evans has the talent and energy to pull the Becky Mode-scripted show off, but choices made by Evans and director Tika Moon have taken a show that usually runs a brisk 80 – 90 minutes and turned it into a bloated two-hour-and-ten-minute intermission-less theatrical road trip that comes dangerously close to running out of gas.
Part of that can be attributed to the set design which covers a great deal of the Raven’s expansive stage and requires Evans to navigate around it all. The show is frequently done in a smaller space, which adds a comedic claustrophobic sense to the environment. Evans has to run a marathon between one side of the set to the other and to a second level, burning a lot of time and energy in the effort.
This is a show that would have been better served by converting the theatre into its “black box” configuration. Not only does the show simply play better in a smaller space (and I’ve seen it in several), but a smaller-sized house would be more amenable to a smaller-sized audience. I really feel the handful of people who joined me at a recent Sunday matinee would have been more comfortable on stage seated around the set than spread throughout the 400+ seat theater. I suspect Evans, who has performed in that Raven configuration before, would have thrived better as well.
Evans’ vocal choices for several of the characters also contributed to the show’s length. The frequent use of slow, pronounced, deliberate voices is antithetical to the usual method of communication used by many New Yorkers. I can say that as a former New Jersey-ian. The phrase “New York minute” can be applied to speech patterns as well.
That the show is as entertaining as it is and doesn’t completely run out of gas is a tribute to Evans’ talent. It’s all about “fuel” efficiency. A simpler set, faster-paced show would improve its mpg.
Your mileage may vary.
‘Fully Committed’ runs through October 17 at the Raven Performing Arts Theater, 115 North St., Healdsburg. Thursday–Saturday, 7:30 pm; Sunday, 2 pm. $5–$25. 707.433.6335. raventheater.org.
Photos by Ray Mabry