A send-up of our culture’s obsession with what’s trendy and the desperate need to ‘see and be seen’ at the latest red-hot dining spot du jour, FULLY COMMITTED, the final show in Theatre Horizon’s 2015-16 season, provides a rapid-fire 80 minutes of non-stop side-splitting entertainment. While playwright Becky Mode includes some serious allusions to the importance of family, the trouble with untrue friends and colleagues, and the indignities ordinary people endure while trying to get ahead, the success of the laugh-out-loud solo show hinges on energetic pacing and impeccable comic timing, which director Kathryn MacMillan and actor Michael Doherty deliver in spades.
The irrepressible Doherty stars as Sam, a struggling actor/harried reservations clerk at Manhattan’s most in-demand restaurant. But he also portrays the zany roster of 35 men and women whose calls the transplanted Midwesterner juggles on three multi-line systems, one hotline to head chef Jean-Claude, and his own smart phone, in a hectic day on the job in his basement office. It is a tour-de-force performance that will leave you utterly astonished and convinced that there isn’t anyone who could be more perfectly cast in this demanding and hilarious show.
Doherty clearly distinguishes each individual and stereotype on the other end of Sam’s conversations– the 1% and the social climbers alike who vie for a table in the overbooked (or “fully committed”) restaurant; the volatile chef and absentee co-workers who add to his stress; the critics and press who are left waiting impatiently; his relatives and the wives of his fellow staff members who interrupt his work—all with their own unique accents, peculiar personalities, and physical mannerisms. Never missing a beat or confusing his dozens of characters, Doherty carries it all off with split-second timing and spot-on spoofs, while capturing Sam’s transition from professional dedication, through bursts of frenetic energy and moments of dejected exhaustion, to an attitude of entitlement that is necessary to survive in a ridiculously competitive environment.
Horizon’s production includes some current updates to Mode’s 1990s script, with amusing references to Siri and a popular presidential candidate. Toby Pettit’s sound design and Shon Causer’s lighting are in perfect synch with Doherty’s movements, moods, and barraging by the incessant ringing of phones, and the set (by Brian Dudkiewicz) and props (Dale Roth Nadel) evoke the basement’s untended and cramped conditions, with dangling wires, utility boxes, stock-filled shelves, and messy work stations that contrast with the unseen upscale restaurant above.
With Doherty’s magnetic charm, you can’t help but root for Sam to do everything he can to get out of there, and in keeping with the theme of FULLY COMMITTED, you can’t help but be reminded of the transiency of every faddish hot spot, as expressed in Yogi Berra’s inimitable quote, “Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.” Be sure to get to Theatre Horizon before it gets too crowded and you can’t get a seat for this terrific production!
[401 DeKalb St., Norristown, PA] May 12-June 5, 2016; theatrehorizon.org.