Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Fully Committed, by Becky Mode, Oct 4, 2007

Fully Committed 
by Becky Mode
Athenaeum Comedy Club, Oct 4 to  Oct 13, 2007
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Oct 4, 2007

In Fully Committed by Becky Mode, Spencer McLaren peoples the stage with a parade of provocative, demanding and desperate New York glitterati. Fully committed describes McLaren’s impressive acting. Soon-to-be-committed might describe his central character, Sam.

While Sam is jammed into the claustrophobic and grimy little office of a pretentious and fatally popular five-star Manhattan restaurant that is fully committed for two months, he fields phone reservations from obnoxious patrons. McLaren’s skill as a character actor is formidable and his versatility allows him to portray forty personages each with a different age, gender, class and accent.

Mode’s script is exceptionally funny and cleverly wrought. Her dialogue is credible, conjuring countless voices and riddled with smart gags and character observations. But without McLaren’s dexterity and the slick and intelligent direction of Gary Young, the play could not succeed. Without faltering, he switches between characters as Sam juggles the shrilling switchboard and two internal phones. Each line is another voice and physicality and McLaren leaves us breathless and astonished at his technique.

Most of the time he is Sam, an out of work actor awaiting a call back. In a nanosecond McLaren metamorphoses into the belligerent Chef, the drama queen Maitre d’ Jean-Claude, or the more temperate waitress Stephanie. All are on the phone to Sam but become a palpable presence as he transforms then transports us momentarily to each character’s location.

He becomes the demanding and ugly Mrs. Carolann Rosenstein-Fishburn, Naomi Campbell’s assistant Bryce who is gay as Mardi Gras, Curtis the passive-aggressive acting agent and the hysterical Mrs. Sebag. He mutates into Hector the Hispanic homeboy, polite little Japanese Mrs. Watanabe or his supercilious acting pal, Jerry.

There are some tender moments between Sam and his lonely, widowed dad, but the pace is relentless and the stress is nerve jangling as Sam suffers the humiliation that is the lot of the restaurant booking clerk. We feel his pain vicariously so are excited and elated when Sam gets his call back, starts to rebel and, finally, just walks out.

Fully Committed is a jaw-dropping performance by a gob-smacking talent. Take some oxygen because it is exhausting to behold.

By Kate Herbert

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