Next to climbing Everest from the North side, obtaining a table on the desired night at a trendy restaurant may be the most Herculean labor known to Homo newyorkensis. At the unnamed Upper East Side, four-star restaurant in whose basement Fully Committed takes place, table 31 seems to be the ne plus ultra of socio-gastronomic achievement, though you and I would gladly settle for a less chic table, especially after we learn that even Henry Kravis had to make do with the one nearest the kitchen.
Fully Committed, sassily written by Becky Mode, smartly directed by Nicholas Martin, and exuberantly enacted by Mark Setlock, is a day in the life of Sam, the young man and struggling actor who works the reservation phones in said restaurant. Rather like one of those underground gnomes toiling in a fairy-tale smithy, he manipulates three or four telephones simultaneously to create seating for the rich, the famous, and those willing to spend half their lives on hold. He must also contend with a house phone on which the chef buzzes him with a Wagnerian ring, as insistent as the Doomsday trump’s.
Sam (or Setlock) also acts out all the callers, vocally and visually transforming himself with meteoric speed for dialogues with himself. Callers range from the imperious to the crawling, from the famous (represented by their minions) to the social climbers, from nabobs to mafiosi. Many of them command such skills as cajoling, wheedling, thundering, condescending, and even insulting – but, of course, insulting with style.
Our man copes with charm, savvy, obsequiousness, or hauteur, whatever suits the respective postulant best, and displays the tact and patience that could settle the future of the Golan Heights in a trice. This is all the more impressive because he must also endure calls from rival actors gloating about their callbacks, family members chattering away, and fellow staffers being variously unhelpful and demanding. And always the chef, whose wall phone requires one’s getting up, rushing over, and all but genuflecting.
Becky Mode has been an actress, waitress, and coatcheck girl, excellent training for a playwright and mandatory for this play. For the price of an entrée, she serves up all the splendors and miseries of restaurant life prepared to a fare-thee-well.