By Karen Isaacs
Six months after I had last sat in a theater as a member of an audience, I had that experience again, thanks to MTC in Norwalk.
The theater received permission from Equity to produce Fully Committed in front of a live, but limited audience, as well as stream it to an at-home audience. With State of Connecticut regulations, only 25 audience members were allowed.
But let’s focus on the production of this one-person show written by Becky Mode. The play was originally written in the 1990s but was updated by Mode for a Broadway revival several years ago.
For those who have never seen it, Fully Committed is about the harried and abused out-of-work actor whose job it is to answer the telephones at a high end destination restaurant in New York City. The type of restaurant that is impossible to get reservations for and whose chef is erratic, demanding and abusive. (This all takes place before the recent shaming of such bosses).
It is a typical day, except Sam is all alone in the basement where two telephones are constantly ringing and a red phone (the direct line to the chef) is also often ringing. Bob his coworker is a no-show.
For 90 minutes we see Sam juggle multiple phones including his cell phone and dozens of customers who range from polite to demanding to rude. Some are regulars whose names are highlighted as to what VIP level they belong to. They call at the last minute and not only want a table for Saturday night at a popular time, but want a very specific table; the one they like best. Sam attempts to balance these with the “ordinary” customers who don’t realize you need to make reservations three months in advance.
But on this day, Sam is pushed too far. By the end of the day, he has accepted a gratuity for a table reservation, used a demanding client to help his acting prospects, made a reservation for a “do not every reserve” person, and managed to blame it all on Bob.
Matt Densky takes on the role of Sam and all the other customers and staff that come from the various phones. We don’t just hear his end of the conversation, we hear the caller’s part as well. Overall, Densky does an excellent job in quickly sketching each of these characters, many of whom we meet for only a minute or two.
Director Kevin Connors has added more movement to the play than is often done. The two separate lines are on different desks and the red phone to the chef is on the wall. Sometimes, it seems as though Densky is running a marathon between all the phones.
The scenic design by Jessie Lizotte convinces us Sam is in cramped and dark space even though, due to the regulations, he has a lot of space between his desk and the audience. He is surrounded by the stairs, racks holding restaurant supplies and the multiple phones.
By the end of the play, you are totally on Sam’s side and his actions seems not only acceptable but you cheer him for finally standing up for himself and taking strong action.
This is not the absolute best production of Fully Committed I’ve ever seen, but the fact that you can either see it in person OR stream live so you hear audience reaction makes it one of the most attractive productions ever.
Thanks to Kevin Connors, his staff and Matt Densky for making it possible.
Fully Committed runs through Sunday, Sept. 27. For tickets to either be in the audience call 203-454-3883 and for streaming the production visit musictheatreofct.com
You can find all the Covid protocols at mustictheatreofct.com