Whatever they’re paying Sam, it’s not enough. His job is to take reservations at an ultra-trendy New York restaurant, which is thoroughly booked — or, as Sam is instructed to say, “fully committed” — months in advance. Yet people, and the kind of people you can’t easily ignore — the rich, the famous, the mob-connected — call nonstop, trying to pressure him into getting a coveted table. Plus, he must deal with a bevy of difficult staff members, including the restaurant’s bratty celebrity chef, its haughty maître-d’, and his AWOL fellow reservation taker, who is faking car trouble in order to interview somewhere else.
Becky Mode’s one-man play “Fully Committed,” which debuted off-Broadway in 1999 and is being presented as an online film by the George Street Playhouse through April 11, is about a working day in the life of Sam, who also happens to be struggling with eternal frustrations in the job he is really trying to pursue (acting), and a recent breakup with a fellow, more successful actor. Maulik Pancholy — whose credits include TV shows such as “30 Rock,” “Weeds” and “Whitney” — plays Sam in this production, doing all the (often comically exaggerated) voices of the callers in addition to holding up Sam’s end of the conversations.
Part of the fun of the play is marveling as Pancholy juggles all the voices as the calls come in, fast and furiously. Along the way, a sympathetic portrait of Sam emerges. He’s a nice guy struggling to do the impossible task of keeping all the restaurant’s demanding customers and equally harried co-workers satisfied. But he’s learned how to play the game, too, finding ways to leverage certain situations to his advantage, and Mode gives him a couple of small triumphs that make his bad day not so bad, after all.
The George Street Playhouse’s artistic director, David Saint, directed this production, and the intimacy of the format enhances the play in some ways.
Details that would be lost in an actual theater come into sharp focus. Closeups of Pancholy’s face, for instance, let us see him really “becoming” the callers: He never just does the voice. And the camera also helps us fully appreciate the set’s glorious clutter: The randomness of the decorations (Sam is apparently a fan of the Red Sox and Led Zeppelin and “Hamilton”), the omnipresent Post-It Notes, the Chinese take-out cartons and so on, plus several reminders to not take a reservation, under any circumstances, from Ned Finlay.
Does Finlay eventually call? Of course. And does he get his reservation? You’ll just have to watch “Fully Committed” to find out.
This is the second play in the George Street Playhouse’s virtual season. A one-woman play, “Bad Dates,” kicked it off in February and March. Coming up are Nia Vardalos’ “Tiny Beautiful Things” (based on Cheryl Strayed’s essays collection, “Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar”), May 4-23; and Terrence McNally’s “It’s Only a Play,” June 8-27.
“Fully Committed” will be available to stream through April 11. Visit georgestreetplayhouse.org.
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