Need to break up the usual winter theatre choices that abound with Christmas favorites and holiday nutcrackers? Alexandria’s MetroStage is shelving its usual holiday chestnut, “A Broadway Christmas Carol” and swapping in a fresh new kind of nuttiness. Fresh from Broadway is the show, “Fully Committed,” a caustic look at the high-end restaurant business and a dream role for the right actor. Simply one of the most laugh-outrightiest times I’ve ever had in a theatre.
Playwright and producer Becky Mode’s one act, one person guffaw-fest was originally set in the big money 2000s, just before the big internet crash, a time when opulence and $250 dinners were commonplace, even a mark of gaudy success. In this reboot, firmly in the era of social justice issues and income inequality, it may ring a bit hollow. Or, it may explode the pretentiousness even further as a look-back.
Simply one of the most laugh-outrightiest times I’ve ever had in a theatre.
Local talent Tom Story (recently seen in Round House Theatre’s “Angels In America”) is lovable, overworked Sam, an on the edge of millennial age range restaurant scheduler, who is also an on-and-off aspiring actor. Of course, that last thought may have been redundant.
Sequestered in the bowels of an anonymous restaurante le chic, he is thrown into a frantic frenzy balancing the assortment of phone calls and callbacks for reservations. This gaggle of customers, along with others in his life—rumored to be 40 in all, I didn’t count—is the basis for the acting gymnastics that are the crux of the show. Fully Committed—as he is told to say, is the posh term for “Sorry, pal, no room for you.”
Handling the many requests coming in, Story switches instantly from his own reserved Sam to pompous whiny Mrs. Clyburn, (“You do know who I am, don’t you? Let me speak to the chef!” or Bryce (“HELLL-O! It’s Bryyyyce from Gwenyth Paltrow’s office! table for 12, and no female wait staff and no legumes please!”) to the smug chef what couldn’t be bothered with details. The script is full of updated zingers that, even if slightly clunky, are taken by Story and given a personal twist. His attention to detail on all of the instant changes creates a world of people we know only through Story’s nuances—a vocal, facial, and emotional immersion.
Sam’s workplace is compact layout in the chilly basement of the chic eatery, a tableau of notices and communication devices, an austere backdrop to be sure. MetroStage and scenic designer Carl Gudenius collaborated with the students at GWU to create this realistic feeling working prison. Director Alan Paul of Shakespeare Theatre came across the river to work in this special theatre work. Fine collaboration in a challenging setting that really comes back to the classic plot of the little guy prevailing over the arrogant elites of the world.
Aside from this manic hilarity, there is a sadder subtext as Sam is struggling with his own issues—getting time off to get away for Christmas, checking on a callback from the agency. Sam’s challenge today is particularly formidable because he’s the only person who managed to show up for his shift.
When low man on the totem pole Sam is compelled by the chef to clean up a bathroom mess, he reaches his low point, but things take a surprising turn, Story has a certain backatcha attitude to his self-important callers that is enabling.
Hey, who wouldn’t want “nitro-frozen shaved foie gras enshrouded in a liquid chicken-filled orb?”
Running Time: 1 hour and 40 minutes with no intermission.
Advisory: Some adult language.
“Fully Committed” plays at MetroStage, 1201 North Royal St, Alexandria, VA from Dec. 8 to Jan. 8, 2017. For tickets to this or other performances in the 2016 season, call the box office at 703 548-9044 or online.