Fully Committed Starring Marcus Brigstocke

In posh Manhattan restaurant-ese, the phrase “fully committed” means “really, really full for the next two months, so don’t even try for a table.” In reference to Fully Committed, the 2000 play by Becky Mode now on at Underbelly Topside, it describes the galloping, hilarious performance by comedian Marcus Brigstocke.

Fully Committed is that rare thing: A well-done comedy with meaty acting. Check, please!

He plays out-of-work New York actor Sam Peliczowski, who earns rent money juggling jangling phones and taking reservations (or mostly rejecting them) in a basement office at an upscale dining establishment. The play, a staple in American regional theatres for the past decade, calls for its sole performer to provide all the voices of the 40-plus callers – honey-voiced socialites, name-dropping parvenus, Mafia mooks and more – who dial in to wheedle Sam for impossible-to-book tables. He also voices his maniacal boss, the Latino kitchen help, the Scottish hostess, the power-mad chef, the French maitre d’ and members of his own family, who keep calling from the Midwest to ask Sam whether he will make it home for Christmas.

The challenge of this one-act is to grant each persona a unique vocal quality, specific accent and personality quirk, and to do it at lightning speed. Brigstocke whips what is essentially a silly, repetitive script into a fine, funny froth, zipping from character to character with champion versatility. He nails the regional peculiarities of diverse American accents, pulling faces and shifting his silhouette to depict each rich old lady, clueless tourist and gay personal assistant (that would be Naomi Campbell’s, and her special request for a tasting menu that omits meat, sugar, soy, wheat, dairy and unflattering lighting is just one of the running gags).

Directed by David Babani and produced by The Chocolate Factory, Fully Committed serves dueling commentaries on the over-entitlement presumed by American one-percenters, and the desperation of the underpaid serfs who both serve them and control their access to prime dining room real estate. Sam may be low on the food chain career-wise, but he holds a powerful position as gatekeeper to the place where foodies go to eat and be seen. (Try for Table 31.) Still, as he sends caller after caller into “please hold” hell, you can sense his soul slowly dying.

Handsome Brigstocke transitions seamlessly among all those calls, voices and attitudes, leaping up to answer the red line from the chef or the house phone on the wall. The production is staged to get him on his feet, which frees him for some nifty physical shtick. But he also lets us see how vulnerable Sam is to the vagaries of the acting biz, where one callback from Lincoln Center could change his fortunes and get him out of his miserable day-job.

Fully Committed is that rare thing: A well-done comedy with meaty acting. Check, please!

Reviews by Elaine Liner

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The Blurb

Blackmail... Harassment... Humiliation... How far would you go to get a table at the smartest restaurant in town? Sam Peliczowski is in demand, manning the red-hot reservation line at Manhattan's number one eatery, and everyone wants a piece of him. As he juggles scheming socialites, name-dropping wannabes, fickle celebrities and an egomaniacal boss, Sam also has to sort out his own life and flagging career. This blisteringly funny play features over forty characters in an unforgettable comedy tour-de-force. 'An immensely entertaining, scalding funny play about the bad behaviour that good food can inspire' (NY Times).