By Jordan Wright (Photo/Chris Banks)
“Fully Committed,” now playing at MetroStage, comes with so much stage cred, it’s hard to know where to start — so I’ll start with the underpinnings. Drum roll, please.
It is directed by Alan Paul, who we know and love as the associate director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company and for countless productions ranging from Shakespeare to musicals to concerts, not to mention opera at the Kennedy Center.
Written by Becky Mode, an alumna of HBO, Disney, Nickelodeon, Columbia Pictures and ABC, this nifty one-man comedy is coming off a successful Broadway run, and MetroStage artistic director Carolyn Griffin has scored a major coup in getting it here.
The original has been newly revised for this production and features the immensely talent- ed and highly endearing Tom Story, who juggles 40 different characters at warp speed.
Story plays Sam, a struggling actor who has taken an in-between-auditions-and-gigs job as a reservations clerk at a Michelin-starred Manhattan temple of cutting edge molecular gastronomy.
Arriving at his basement office, he discovers that the other two reservations clerks, Sonya and Bob, have ditched him at the height of the holiday season and he is left to fend for himself against all the self-important crazies and their outrageous requests.
Add to that a staff consisting of a haughty, bipolar French chef with a drug habit, a prissy hostess, a Latino sous chef and a kindly manager of Indian descent.
Presto chango! Story cycles through an astonishing array of accents from Brooklynite and Manhattan Old Guard to
Cockney, French, Indian, Italian (a mobster needs a table stat), a helicopter pilot with a lateral lisp, a Southern drawl from an octogenarian who overshares her medical issues, the flat nasal voice of a Midwestern accent and a Transylvanian-sounding caller willing to bribe him for a table.
Of particular hilarity is Story’s interpretation of Gwyneth Paltrow’s swishy assistant, Bryce, who phone-friends him with increasingly insistent updates of the actress’ demands for a special vegan tasting menu and the most flattering lighting. Famed British chef Heston Blumenthal is channeled when he shows up unannounced to find his reservation is missing and the restaurant is “fully committed.”
Throughout the mayhem, Sam takes calls on his personal cell phone from his supportive father and rival Jerry, another out-of-work actor who updates him on his shiny prospects just as Sam approaches the end of his rope. To add insult to injury, just as Sam is hoping to join his family for Christmas, he gets a call from the chef telling him he must work through the holidays.
As we see, it’s not just the constant phone calls for rezzies, it’s the intercom micromanaging between the front of the house and the kitchen that challenge Sam’s sweet demeanor. As amenable as he seems, he’s no dummy, and when he discovers co-worker Bob faked a car accident to get out of his shift, he begins to see the light.
Story’s ability to convey these absent callers through accent, emotion, and gesture is a triumph to behold.