Fully Committed

The title may describe Martin Burke's performance, but is the play worthy of his talents?

Hold the line: Martin Burke
Hold the line: Martin Burke
Photo courtesy of Kirk R. Tuck

Fully Committed

Zach Theatre Whisenhunt Stage, 1510 Toomey, 476-0541
Through Aug. 26
Running time: 1 hr., 30 min.

It's not Martin Burke's fault. The play Fully Committed, I mean. There are an awful lot of things wrong with Zach Theatre's production of Fully Committed, but solo performer Martin Burke is not one of them. He is an engaging, energetic, and hardworking actor who plays Sam, the frenetic and frenzied restaurant reservations manager. He also plays 39 other characters in the play, representing an egomaniac chef, a series of entitled customers, a staff of idiosyncratic restaurant employees, and more.

The play skewers (if you will) the world of New York haute cuisine. Prospective diners call and call again, insisting that it really must be possible for them to get a table at 7pm that night at a restaurant which books two months in advance. The multiple phones and intercom ring and chime constantly through the entire show, keeping Sam – a semi-employed actor in his other life – constantly on his toes.

As presented here, the play's primary issue is that none of the characters are very likeable. Under the direction of Zach Theatre Producing Artistic Director Dave Steakley, few characters rise above the level of stereotype. Jean-Claude, the presumably French maître d'hôtel, employs the same hanky-waving gesture of panic before nearly every single line, and in theatre, repetition is a seasoning best used sparingly. Even poor, martyred Sam fails to earn much sympathy. There are all kinds of survival jobs a working actor can find in New York City that don't cause a man to approach an apoplectic state as a matter of routine. It's never clear why Sam stays in this job. His arc, and the arcs of the other characters here, are flimsy at best.

Mainly, the play is a vehicle for two things: easy laughs and showcasing Burke in something other than The Santaland Diaries, the one-man show that he has reliably performed at Zach during the holidays for several years. I don't take issue with easy laughs, but in this show they become both repetitive and predictable. And it's not so much that a play needs a message to earn critical approval; it's that it needs a little structure and wit in addition to the energy which Burke abundantly supplies.

Ultimately, the production comes across as an affordable way for a professional theatre company to bring in some summertime ticket-based income: solo actor, single set, few design requirements. You can't fault a nonprofit arts company for doing what needs to be done to earn its bread and butter; however I question whether Fully Committed is really a play worthy of Burke's energies or of Austin audiences' attention.

More Fully Committed
All Over Creation: The Same but Different
All Over Creation: The Same but Different
Reruns on TV may be the same old thing, but onstage they show us something new

Robert Faires, Aug. 31, 2012

Austin Critics Table Nominations, 2003-2004
Austin Critics Table Nominations, 2003-2004
The full list of nominations for the 2003-2004 Austin Critics Table Awards, recognizing outstanding achievements in local theatre, dance, classical music, and visual art

Robert Faires, May 14, 2004

More Arts Reviews
Zilker Theatre Productions' <i>Shrek the Musical</i>
Zilker Theatre Productions' Shrek the Musical
The lovable ogre and company spring to life on the Hillside stage with loads of laughs and professional polish

Shanon Weaver, July 29, 2016

Spectrum Theatre Company's <i>Spunk</i>
Spectrum Theatre Company's Spunk
This Austin company weaves three classic tales by Zora Neale Hurston into a spirited service full of sass and grit

Robert Faires, July 29, 2016

More by Elizabeth Cobbe
Different Stages' <i>John Gabriel Borkman</i>
Different Stages' John Gabriel Borkman
The pleasure of this production of Ibsen's drama comes in the complex exchanges among the deeply committed actors

July 8, 2016

Capital T Theatre's <i>Trevor</i>
An aging chimp in show business provides the focus for this engrossing vehicle for a cast of great performers

May 27, 2016


Fully Committed, Zach Theatre, Martin Burke, Dave Steakley

AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)