Breton Lalama’s performance in the madcap, fancy restaurant, send-up Fully Committed is a phenomenal feat of ever-changing voices and physical gestures.
The 90-minute, one-person show without intermission – the first play staged by Neptune Theatre in 18 months – is a rollicking ride as Sam, an unemployed actor working the reservation line at a high-end New York restaurant, is bombarded by entitled socialites and celebrity handlers.
At the same time Sam is juggling their widowed father who wants them home for Christmas and waiting for a callback for a role at the Lincoln Center. As the day gets crazier and crazier, this endearing character learns how to gain courage and work the system.
Fully Committed, written in 1999 by American playwright (and former New York actor and waitress) Becky Mode, is a satire on $300-a-plate dinners, “molecular gastronomy” and a world of wealth and celebrity.
Lalama, who was in Neptune’s production of Pleasureville and moved to Halifax just before the pandemic, takes on 40 characters clearly delineating each one from a squeaky-voiced, would-be diner to a gruff and crude narcissistic chef to the elegant but very distressed French hostess.
Neptune’s artistic director Jeremy Webb directs for a swift pace and a good balance of the outrageous characters, expressed in dynamic physicality, with the pleasant, pleading notes in Sam’s character.
Webb is also the set designer and this year, in order “to improve operational and environmental efficiency,” according to program notes, Neptune is “reimagining” props, sets and costumes. (Programs are digital only.)
Fully Committed, which is the industry term for fully booked, is set on an upper floor, like an attic, with visible slats on the walls, an old, artificial Christmas tree, two desks and a lot of stuff. The set is as chaotic as Sam’s day becomes when co-worker Bob apparently has a car break down on the highway.
This comedy is very cleverly constructed to build a whole world of people on stage. It feels noisy and large even though there’s only one actor.
With three phones ringing at different times and restaurant bustle in evidence below the attic, Joe Micallef’s sound design is crucial to the play as is Jessica Lewis’s lighting design. Also on the creative team are stage manager Jennifer Schamehorn and assistant director and Chrysalis intern Patricia Cerra.
Fully Committed, at Neptune to Oct. 10, opened in 1999 and ran Off-Broadway for a year and a half at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Time Magazine named it one of the 10 best plays of 2000. Since 2001 it has been one of the 10 most produced plays in the United States.
Next up at Neptune are the thriller The Woman in Black, Oct. 19 to Nov. 14; Alice in Pantoland, Nov. 23 to Jan. 9, and Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Nov. 23 to Dec. 26, with Rhys Bevan-John. Webb is announcing the winter/spring season in October.