New Rep's "Fully Committed": A Holiday Buffet, with No Reservations

“Fully Committed” by Becky Mode, New Rep’s latest offering, is a tour de farce for any actor/juggler with impeccable timing, impressive memory and impossible energy. Happily, Gabriel Kuttner, who plays Sam the reservation clerk at a four-star Manhattan restaurant, has mastered this role before, winning an IRNE (Independent Reviewers of New England) Best Solo Performance award in the process. Kuttner, familiar to New Rep audiences from past performances in “DollHouse” and “Speed the Plow” (for which he won another IRNE), hasn’t lost any of the stamina needed for this role (or, rather, roles, since he actually ends up playing three dozen or so of them). As acted by Kuttner and directed by Bridget Kathleen O’Leary, Associate Artistic Director for New Rep (who also directed “DollHouse”), there’s something new on the uh, Verizon. It’s like another course in the holiday buffet (and definitely not leftovers), or finding yet another present under the tree you hadn’t noticed. And what an unexpected holiday gift this is. It’s a hilarious cure for the holidaze.

Sam, it turns out, is an aspiring actor who’s very good at his day job but is desperately trying to get home to his widowed father in South Bend, Indiana for the holidays, as he anxiously awaits a Lincoln Center call back for an acting role. Frustrating and delaying his travel plans and career hopes are the innumerable last-minute calls he gets from the likes of Naomi Campbell’s assistant, Sherry Lansing’s secretary at Paramount Pictures, East Side socialites, suspected members of the mafia, a Middle Eastern sheik, and a blacklisted chap by the name of Ned Finlay. All are blithely ignoring his insistence that the restaurant is “fully committed” for the evening/week/month/eternity. How he manages to keep all these juggled balls in the air is the source of all the fun in this work, as he turns the tables, literally, massages all those egos, accepts bribes and, as has been said elsewhere, “gives good table”. Depending on the skill, pacing, and, yes, the aforementioned mental skills of the sole actor in the play, this can be (and is, in this iteration) sheer theatrical joy mixed with utter amazement. Kuttner’s portrayal of so many different personalities, accents and attitudes is a wonder to behold, or be on hold for. This critic has seen the play in three separate versions, and this one is the most restrained, nuanced and enjoyable.

The play earned a spot on Time Magazine’s top ten list of the 2000 theater season, and justly so. It’s a fast-paced roller coaster ride requiring a great deal not only from the actor and director but from the technical crew as well. The Scenic and Lighting Design by Deb Sullivan and Sound Design by Bill Barclay are call-perfect, almost becoming Kuttner‘s co-stars. While this is hardly profound theater, (nor is it intended to be), it’s a terrific ride. However fully you’re committed this holiday season, you owe it to yourself to squeeze in another fabulously funny night at the theater. And whatever you do, don’t tell them Ned Finlay sent you.

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