Throughout “Fully Committed,” the audience is treated to a virtually unwavering glimpse into the life of Sam Peliczowski, a frazzled restaurant receptionist working in New York City. Negotiating a vegan prix fixe menu for Naomi Campbell via her fast-talking, flamboyant agent Bryce; scrubbing diarrhea from the bathroom floor at the behest of his deep-voiced, merciless boss; and covering for an absent coworker who sought greener pastures at a job interview for Bed, Bath & Beyond are all in a day’s work. Though Sam’s food-industry job seems like a real pressure cooker, we learn it is intended to be only a temporary way to make ends meet before his impending big break in show business. Our hero is besieged by unreasonable burdens, agonized by a dizzying agenda, and whipsawed by demands from higher-ups that he be everywhere at once. Feel bad for Sam? Feel worse for Andy Sandberg ’05, the star of this fast-paced one-man show, who plays not only the riled receptionist but also the battery of irate customer-callers and all the figures more powerful than him on the restaurant’s food chain.
“Fully Committed,” written by “Cosby” writer Becky Mode, is Sandberg’s Theater Studies senior project. A J.E. Sudler Fund sponsors the project, hence the free admission. The somewhat claustrophobic and stuffy Nick Chapel performance space heightens the sense of non-commodiousness and anxiety characteristic of Sam’s world. Being in the hot, dark mini-theater located in Trumbull’s basement helps reinforce and validate the play’s setting; references to the ominous sounding, worlds-away “upstairs” area of the restaurant seem natural.
The plot follows a mostly linear pattern that allows the curtains to fall (figuratively speaking, due to the Nick’s sparseness) on a conclusive-feeling series of final events. Mode cleverly uses references to the time of day, such as that Sam has missed lunch or that his boss’ helicopter will leave in 30 minutes, to alert the audience to how much time has elapsed.
In the end of the play, we get the feeling that Sam finally takes to heart the advice he has been getting from his talent agent the whole time about needing exude a “sense of personal entitlement.” But we don’t get a specific, identifiable moment or event that explains why the man who had earlier allowed his coworkers to schedule him for a full day of work on both Christmas Eve and Christmas suddenly finds the courage to hang up the phone on his boss and authoritatively double-book tables at the exclusive restaurant. Also, some strains of the plot line are entirely abandoned, such as the discord between Sam’s coworker and boss after the latter finds out his employee attended an interview for another job, or the mysterious story line about why a certain patron named Ned Finlay has been harshly banished from the restaurant, and what will happen after Sam absentmindedly commits a table reservation to him for the next weekend. These discrepancies mar the production slightly, leaving the screenplay feeling somewhat hollow and abrupt. Though the story is still an enjoyable and uplifting one, the efficacy and realism are hurt by the defective story arc.
But even with the script’s shortcomings, the real gem of the production is Sandberg. Presumably, anyone who manages to perform a one-man show at least passably well is worthy of praise for the feat, but Sandberg’s remarkable ability to immerse himself in a new character at a moment’s notice is enjoyable to watch. Though Sandberg’s portrayal of the various restaurant personalities (to wit, the unnamed head chef cum boss; a maitre d’ named Jean-Claude; the manager, Oscar; Hector, a cook; and the gentle hostess Stephanie) is impressive, his comedic strengths lie in depicting members of the demanding crowd of regulars that frequents the restaurant. This crowd includes “V.V.V.V.V.I.P.” (and very, very snooty-sounding) patrons like Mrs. Bunny Vandervere; celebrities and pseudo-celebrities like a Paramount Studios she-male; and Naomi Campbell’s manager, Bryce. Sandberg shines in his depiction of this final character, a loudmouth, self-important but harmless scene-stealer with a penchant for assaulting poor Sam with shrill, singsong cries of “Thanks a trillionnnnn!”
Sandberg’s authentic perspiration and flushed complexion during the play attest to the assertion (of the bodily, facial, vocal, and mental varieties, at the very least) required of the “fully committed” star of the show. Though Sandberg has nearly as much on his plate as our sympathetic restaurant employee Sam, the show ends with both handling the burden with admirable grace, making “Fully Committed” simply delicious.