A comedy by Becky Mode, Directed by Bridget Kathleen O'Leary; Deb Sullivan, Scenic and Lighting Designer; Adrienne Carlile, Costume Designer; Bill Barclay, Original Sound Designer; Ian Thorsell, Props Designer; Phill Madore, Production Stage Manager
CAST: Gabriel Kuttner (Sam)
Performances through December 30 at New Repertory Theatre, Black Box Theater, Arsenal Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal Street, Watertown, MA; Box Office 617-923-8487 or www.newrep.org
Becky Mode's one act, one person comedy Fully Committed follows a day in the life of Sam Peliczowski, an out-of-work actor who moonlights on the reservation line at a topnotch, chi-chi Manhattan restaurant. While fielding a barrage of customer telephone calls, checking in over the intercom with the French maitre d' and Lebanese business manager, jumping to pick up the narcissistic Chef's hotline, and juggling a litany of personal matters, Sam holds out hope that he'll be able to make it home to the Midwest to spend Christmas with his widowed father. It doesn't look good.
Based on his spot on performance as Sam, it is hard to imagine that Gabriel Kuttner could share that poor fellow's circumstances and ever have any difficulty finding work as an actor. This play is both an incredible challenge and an incredible opportunity for the performer to show his range. In addition to playing Sam, he plays more than thirty other characters, differentiating each by tone of voice, body language, a tilt of the head, or some small prop, such as a nail file. Kuttner's vocal and physical impersonations are so distinctive that once they've been introduced, the audience recognizes them again in a flash when they reappear and often starts chuckling before the actor utters a line.
In the summer of 2010, Kuttner self-produced and starred in a production of Fully Committed at Herter Park for which he won the IRNE Award for Best Solo Performance. Two years later, under the capable directorial guidance of Bridget Kathleen O'Leary, he was able to hit the deck running for this iteration in the Black Box Theater at New Repertory Theatre in Watertown. On opening night, Kuttner was in command of all of his faculties and appeared relaxed; well, as relaxed as someone answering a bank of phones ringing nonstop and repeatedly popping up to answer the buzz of the intercom could be. In actuality, Kuttner's outer calm translates well into his characterization of Sam's ability to remain mostly unruffled in the face of an army of disgruntled callers.
If Kuttner's outward appearance belies inner stress, he can channel that into the rants of the Chef, the demanding Carolann Rosenstein-Fishburn, the aggressive Mrs. Sebag, or the condescending reservations manager, Bob. He slips easily into the accents of Jean-Claude, a Dominican line cook, Japanese tourist Mrs. Watanabe, a Marlon Brando-esque mobster, and Sam's dad with his flat Midwestern dialect. Just as he gives each character a distinguishing voice, Kuttner also graces them with unique looks on his very expressive face, matching the emotion to the message.
Scenic and Lighting Designer Deb Sullivan, in tandem with Props Designer Ian Thorsell, has crafted a drab, cluttered basement office to indicate the low place that Sam occupies on the totem pole of the establishment. Bill Barclay has his work cut out for him, but magically synchronizes the sounds of ringing phones and buzzing intercom with the action, and occasionally the lights blink on the same timing. Adrienne Carlile dresses Sam and - surprise, surprise - everyone else wears the same thing!
Selected as one of Time Magazine's Top Ten Plays of 2000, Fully Committed is a smart comedy that highlights the playwright's ear for dialogue as well as her funny bone. Fortunately, those two body parts are among Kuttner's finer attributes, but we get the benefit of all of his physical talents combined to meet the challenge. With his impressive focus and concentration, he could probably do Sam's job in a New York minute.