The frantic madness of an in-demand, high-society restaurant is the setting of the comedy, Fully Committed, at Fort Worth’s Amphibian Stage Productions. Photo: shutterstock
When some exclusive restaurants turn away customers seeking reservations, they use the apology, “We’re fully committed” – instead of “We’re all booked up” or just “Forget about it, pal, you ain’t gettin’ in here.” Fully Committed is also the title of the off-Broadway comedy currently at Fort Worth’s Amphibian Stage Productions. In his review, KERA’s Jerome Weeks says it’s a solo show requiring, yes, full commitment from its single, frantic performer.
- Dallas Morning News review
- Fort Worth Star-Telegram review
- TheaterJones review
Think of Fully Committed as the high-society counterpart to Greater Tuna. In Greater Tuna, all the comic citizens of the famously tiny Texas town are portrayed by just two actors. In Fully Committed, it’s a single performer who creates 39 characters: the employees inside a very in-demand New York restaurant as well as the many people outside, demanding to get a choice table inside.
The main character is Sam, the poor soul who’s yoked to a telephone headset, answering reservation calls. Sam must contend with the owner, a menacing celebrity chef, as well as a fairly useless maître d’ named Jean-Claude — this, all the while juggling requests from clueless out-of-towners, supermodels requiring extra-special food prep and the kind of self-important rich man who simply asks how big a bribe it’ll take to get in.
For New York-based actor Russell Saylor, every performance of Fully Committed is a workout. Unlike Tuna‘s performers, he doesn’t get offstage costume changes. He does all of his split-second characters with just his voice and mannerisms. Directed by Evan Mueller, Saylor delivers a whirlwind performance.
Mercifully, playwright Becky Mode does not leave Fully Committed just a theatrical stunt, a case of ‘How many caricatures can one hyperactive actor deliver in 75 minutes?’ Sam, we learn, is an actor — naturally. And he has hopes of ditching these awful people – he recently auditioned at Lincoln Center.
So there’s some glimmer of escape here — making Fully Committed both amusing and, at times, touching.
Perhaps it’s because it’s been fifteen years since the play debuted off-Broadway (and eleven since it played at the Dallas Theater Center). In that time, there have been thirteen seasons of restaurant reality shows like Hell’s Kitchen — and Restaurant Stakeout and Iron Chef and No Reservations and Top Chef and Restaurant Takeover. All of these have helped make obsessive foodies, high-maintenance chefs and high-stakes restaurants pretty standard fare.
Or perhaps it’s because of the new novel, Love Me Back, Dallas author Merrit Tierce’s debut. It’s an unblinking portrait of a wretched waitress working in the cocaine-and-degradation culture of a pricey Dallas steakhouse. Tierce’s fierce, bitter prose and her story of non-stop degradation make the social satire in Fully Committed seem about as challenging as frozen waffles.
Whatever the reason, the humor here simply isn’t as knife-edged as it could be. This doesn’t reflect that badly on Mode or Saylor or the production in general. Fact is, social satire can age quickly. One measure of how less-than-crispy-fresh the references are in Fully Committed: Fifteen years ago, a chef calling his cuisine “global fusion” would have provoked chuckles at his pretentions.
Google “global fusion” now. Not only is it a term regularly bandied about by food writers, you’ll find it’s the name of a successful restaurant chain.