Cotuit Center for the Arts’s Ari Lew wasn’t just Sam, the beleaguered reservations line operator in Becky Mode’s one-man show, “Fully Committed”—he was 33 men and women.
In addition to Sam, the aspiring actor stuck working the reservations line in the basement of a trendy New York City restaurant that specializes in molecular gastronomy, he’s also Jean Claude, the snooty French maître d’hôtel; Stephanie the hostess; Bob, the manager of the reservations line who can’t seem to make it in to work; and the petulant chef who sounds more like a surfer dude than the creature of foods “infused with pipe tobacco” and “edible dirt.”
Mr. Lew is also Sam’s recently widowed father; Bryce, the chipper assistant to the ridiculously demanding Gwyneth Paltrow, Sam’s well-meaning but unhelpful actor friend; and myriad other colorful characters, from Midwesterners to senior citizens.
Customers demand reservations, they demand specific tables, they demand round tables; the list of absurdities goes on and on. Sam keeps his cool, but it isn’t easy.
On top of all this, Sam misses his chance to eat lunch because he can’t get out of the basement; he’s called upon to clean up a mess in the men’s bathroom just before the chef jets off in a private helicopter. And, it’s looking like he won’t be getting any callbacks on his latest audition, or be able to get home for Christmas.
The show takes its name from the restaurant’s policy to tell customers it is “fully committed,” rather than all booked up. The underlying meaning—that half the callers should be committed themselves—is not lost on the audience.
Calls come through on the reservation line, the restaurant phone, the direct line to the chef, and Sam’s cellphone. Mr. Lew deftly hands them all.
Ruthe Lew directs her son in the show. Mr. Lew seems like he might have been channeling the last character he played at CCftA, the neurotic Felix Unger of “The Odd Couple,” for some of the restaurant callers.
For the most part the play is laugh-out-loud funny, with Sam dealing with one over-the-top customer, co-worker, or situation after another, but the play also has heart.
In one particularly emotional and convincing scene between Sam and Sam’s dad, Sam tries to break the news that he can’t get home for the holidays while his dad tries (unsuccessfully) not to sound too disappointed. The audience, a full house last Friday, June 7, was silent during the exchange, at which point they likely forgot that Mr. Lew was, in fact, playing both characters.
Over the course of the 70-minute show Sam’s luck changes, mainly because the way he sees his situation changes. Despite the frantic nature of the play, Mr. Lew creates in Sam a character worthy of cheering for. He also creates 32 other fully believable characters by simply using his voice, gestures and posturing.
“Fully Committed” continues at CCftA’s Black Box Theater through June 23 with performances Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 PM and Sunday at 4 PM. Tickets are $20, $15 for members, It’s well worth seeing.