As far as one-man shows go, they don’t get much more frenetic than FULLY COMMITTED.
Written by Becky Mode and set in a dilapidated, windowless office in the basement of an award-winning Upper East Side Manhattan restaurant, this quintessentially New York piece premiered in 1999.
The play centres around Sam Peliczowski, an aspiring actor stuck in a hideous job manning the restaurant’s phone lines while the city’s glitterati and wannabes enjoy all the luxury upstairs.
Sam is forced to field a seemingly endless number of calls from every imaginable clichéd New Yorker, some of whom will do anything to land that dream table.
Simultaneously, he is forced to deal with the nutjob chef, the bitchy headwaiter, his father, who just wants his son home for Christmas, whilst all the while anxiously waiting for a call back for a role in a play he desperately wants at the Lincoln Centre.
This production, from the Brevity Theatre Co, is directed by Alexander Butt and stars local Sydney actor and NIDA graduate Nic Curnow. With a script that called for him to take on 39 characters in 70 minutes, Curnow, it must be said, delivers a blistering performance.
Not only is his comic timing impeccable, he makes Sam totally three dimensional, whilst simultaneously bringing credibility to all the side characters and a host of sub-plots.
One of the most impressive aspects of Curnow’s performance is that, while it would have been easy to lapse into over-the-top caricature (which many of the characters admittedly lend themselves to), he manages to make them all-too human.
Furthermore, the way that Sam somehow keeps his cool when lesser mortals would have thrown in the towel is testimony to how skillfully Curnow has handled the role.
Sam is ultimately a likeable, believable, trustworthy character surrounded by those whose intentions are less genuine. Whilst his day and his job are truly appalling, his optimism shines through and things somehow get better.
Yet in what is after all a quintessentially New York play, in which everyone has an angle and is trying to hustle something or someone, Sam is also well aware of what he needs to do to get ahead in this dog-eat-dog environment.
Sure he has to clean up shit, literally, but he is not as powerless as his situation initially suggests. His ability to get particular bookings filled by bending the truth works decidedly to his advantage and he is not above accepting a cash bribe either.
One of the more interesting sub-plots revolves around how one of the annoying consistent callers can, as it turns out, pull some strings with someone at the Lincoln Center, which Sam recognises can work to his advantage.
FULLY COMMITTED works on a number of levels. For me it brought back memories of MacHomer, which featured as part of the Sydney Festival a few years ago, where a single actor performed the whole of Macbeth based on characters from The Simpsons.
Yes, there were irritating bits and any more than 70 minutes might have been pushing it, but it is Curnow’s performance which makes this a standout.
FULLY COMMITTED opened at the Old Fitzroy Theatre, 129 Dowling Street, Woolloomooloo corner Cathedral Street on Wednesday 27th February and is only playing a short season until Saturday 1st March.