Fully Committed by Becky Mode. Directed by Steve Stettler.
Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman
"...a strong sense of personal entitlement."
What Sam Peliczowski, an aspiring actor in New York City, is missing is an understanding of the basic characteristics he possesses. He works in the basement office of a posh and trendy Manhattan restaurant taking reservations and just about any other type of orders tossed his way by various members of the placeís staff. He takes the guff his agentís receptionist throws at him and he quietly accepts his friend Jerryís offhand cracks about his inability to meet even Jerryís meager standards of success.
At the center of Samís world during the one shift course of this play is his father whose own neediness emerges in the quiet and accepting manner in which he accepts his sonís need to ignore him, put him on hold, say heíll call his dad back soon. Surrounding the principal tale are the customers who have, alter or are desperate to make reservations for dinner or lunch. In all there are about forty different characters in this play, each and every one of them voiced by actor Sam Lloyd, Jr. who is cast as Sam.
Samís life is conversations with people on the telephone, on an intercom or on a hot line. Without the phone he would be a lonely man in a lonely room. When opportunities are finally presented to him, he grabs them like a drowning man craving a strong line of hemp to drag him to safety. . .or at least away from this place heís in.
At the Weston Playhouse in Weston, Vermont the Weston Playhouse Theatre Company has opened their season with this play. Sam Lloyd, Jr. seems to be an odd choice to play Sam except for one thing: he could easily be the other Sam. Generally played as a young actor seeking that first break in NY, here he is a slightly older man, probably with a break or two behind him, still searching for the right thing while holding down a sensible job that keeps ends meeting.
But this isnít such a sensible thing. He explains to someone that heís just having a bad day, but it really is much more than that. Unbeknownst to Sam, he has finally had enough of this terrible life heís been leading. From the first moment when he mouths the line, his discontent was showing. This is something Lloyd does very well, show his discontent. On the TV show, Scrubs," for which he is best known, his character of an attorney who cannot exert any influence whatsoever over the madcap occurrences that keep him hopping. To make his life easier he sings in a Barbershop Quartet. Lloydís Sam is something like that.
He is gentle and humane and the laughs engendered in his role, and his playing of it, are genuine. We feel sorry for his character, Ted, and we empathize with him as well. Here, we are always in sync with Sam. Lloyd plays the man with honesty and simplicity and the laughs he gets are the laughs he deserves, the ones in the script. He is not the greatest comic actor Iíve seen do this play, but he is the most fragile and susceptible one and those qualities work just as well for the character as do the more common ones.
Janie E. Howland has provided the perfect cramped work center, a basement not unlike many Iíve seen in New York City. Michael Giannitti provides good lighting. I also suspect that dialect coach Patricia Norcia has had a lot to do withe creative voices Sam deals with on various phones. If so, Brava.
Director Steve Stettler has woven all these elements into an intricate pattern, so delicate a times that its hard to find in the fabric of this one-act, 90 minute stagework. Using a confined space with infinite possibilities, he manipulates his actor in and out of situations masterfully. Not one moment seems false or "staged."
I heard someone say, in the audience, "well, now this season finally feels like itís here." Sheís right. It does. And for the first new production of the season there is "Fully Committed," a phrase used to close bookings for a particular place and time and space. You may become fully committed to telling your friends to see this show. I just did (wink).
Fully Committed plays at the Weston Playhouse, 703 Main Street, Weston, VT through July 4. For tickets and information call the box office at 802-824-5288 or go on line at www.westonplayhouse.org