Local Arts Reviews
Reviewed by Molly Beth Brenner, Fri., July 4, 2003
Fully Committed: Holding the Phone
Zachary Scott Theatre Center Whisenhunt Arena Stage, through Aug. 31
Running time: 1 hr, 30 min
Whether Karl Marx would have liked it or not, economy is everything. I'm not talking about Wall Street; I'm talking about plain ol' give and take. Who's got the stuff -- the money, the power, the glitter, the sway -- and what do the rest of us have to do to get it? That simple equation pins down just about every major conflict in human history.
Fully Committed, a play by Becky Mode about a reservations jockey in a tony New York restaurant, uncovers the intricate economy that governs society's high-end minions. Many of us never get a chance to experience this firsthand, but we can all imagine what it must be like: the petty elbowing for the corner table, the name-dropping, the willingness to hold for hours just to sit in the same room with somebody famous. Not only does Zachary Scott Theatre Center's new production turn this garish soap opera of the well-to-do into a thrill ride for an audience, it also perfectly captures the mania that is restaurant life, while imbuing the central character, Sam, with a true heart and soul amid the soulless mob around him.
All this is a tall order for one play, and Becky Mode's script, along with Dave Steakley's choice direction, wittily weaves together the constant triage that keeps the play's nonstop, berserk action tight. But this is one show that depends upon the star to drive it home. In order for the humor and pace to ring true, it must be performed by a truly chameleonlike actor with perfect comic timing and a ridiculous amount of energy. Good thing, then, that Martin Burke was available.
Burke plays all the characters -- more than 40 of them -- in this 90-minute performance, from the reservationist to the French maitre d' to the restaurant's many reservation-seekers. He operates his multiline phone, intercom, and chef hotline like a virtuoso, dashing from one end of the room to another with that nimble Burke trot. Most impressive of all, he shifts from our hero Sam to each caller and employee with crispness and clarity; I was never confused for a moment as to who was holding forth. Even though most of these callers are over-the-top (from the inanely cheery "Brice, from Naomi Campbell's office" to the screeching, hyperdramatic Mrs. Sebag), Burke is able to balance their cartoonishness with an edge of believability that heightens their humor.
Throughout all the madness, though, Mode, Steakley, and Burke never let us lose sight of Sam's centrality to the play, nor of Sam's humanity. As the play unfolds, we are given insight into Sam's personal economy, the hierarchy of values he places on the people and things he holds dear. The crosscut between Sam's private economy and the broader social domination game he's asked to orchestrate at work is what gives Fully Committed its real impact. Although Sam is no saint (or perhaps because he isn't), we root for him, hoping that for once, the regular guy will win out. Committed's combination of satire and insight makes for an hour and a half of real delight.
Jillian Owens, Fri., May 24, 2013
Adam Roberts, Fri., May 24, 2013
Natalie Zeldin, Fri., May 24, 2013
Robert Faires, Fri., May 17, 2013
Matthew Irwin, Fri., May 17, 2013
at Austin Music Hall
Vinyl Hunt: A Record Nerd's Swap Meet at The North Door
An Oversimplification of Her Beauty at Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz
Film Review Misses Mark Please make a note not to print any more movie reviews of big action movies by Kimberley Jones. She gets ...
What's the Big Deal? I'm baffled by this obsession with Mueller. I drove through it out of curiosity and it's a suburban nightmare that ...
No Mystery in School Bond Failures How out of touch has the Chronicle become with the voting populace of this city? From the article “Bonds: Death ...
Program Is Vital Resource I am responding to your article on ACCESS News, the program by and for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. The ...
Finding Rail Route Complicated Michael King, in “The Reading Railroad”, while making valuable points, seems to state that finding an initial route for urban ...
- Follow us@AustinChronicle