Reviewed by George Basler
For 80 or so minutes, Wayne Pyle is the hardest working man in show business as the only performer in the comedy Fully Committed, which opened this past weekend (June 28-30) at the Chenango River Theatre in Greene.
In a funny and frenetic performance, Pyle plays Sam, a haggard reservations clerk at a snooty, upscale New York City restaurant when not hustling for acting jobs. He also plays 39 other characters — including an egomaniacal boss, demanding patrons, social snobs and a super witchy assistant to his agent — with whom Sam interacts on a really bad work day.
The role provides a chance to give a virtuoso performance, and Pyle, a theater faculty member at SUNY New Paltz, makes the most of the opportunity. He switches effortlessly from character to character without missing a beat and does a fine job mimicking the array of accents and attitudes (mostly bad attitudes) of the characters besieging Sam with reservation requests and other demands.
Pyle also brings a sense of humanity to the beleaguered Sam who you can’t help but root for and applaud when he is finally able to turn the tables (no pun intended) at the end of the play.
That being said, Fully Committed is a very slight effort, more an extended comedy sketch than a play. Other than Sam, the characters don’t rise above the level of stereotypes. The play’s plot is a slim one, focusing on whether Sam will get an acting job and time off for Christmas to visit his widowed father.
In short, Fully Committed may give you some laughs, but I doubt it will stick in your memory.
The playwright is Becky Mode, a former actress, waitress and coat check girl, who was apparently taking notes during those jobs. To her credit, Fully Committed is breezy, fast moving and easy to take. Mode’s targets are pompous, self-important “beautiful people” scrambling to get a table and pay outrageous prices at the latest trendy restaurant where an imperious chef specializes in $200-a-plate “global fusion” cuisine. Let’s face it: These people are pretty easy to satirize, and Mode does that in spades. In the end, though, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.
Credit goes to director Brendan Burke, artistic director at the Shadowland Theatre in Ellenville, who does a fine job keeping the action at a brisk enough pace to disguise the flimsy nature of the play. Drew Francis also deserves credit for designing the dilapidated, claustrophobic reservations office in the basement of the restaurant. It’s seediness reflects Sam’s state of mind.
Fully Committed hints at social commentary about the gap between those at the top of the social food chain and the working stiffs who must cater to their whims, but the theme is never really developed. The play is more fluff than cutting satire.
Still Pyle is first-rate in the role, and Fully Committed is consistently amusing, if not hilariously funny. The play is a pleasant enough diversion for a summer evening.
IF YOU GO: Chenango River Theatre is located at 991 State Route 12 in Greene. Performances of Fully Committed are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through July 21. There will be a post-show talk-back on Friday (July 5). Tickets are $20 on Thursdays, $22 on Fridays, $23 on Saturdays and $21 on Sundays. Call the box office at 656-8499 or visit www.chenangorivertheatre.org.