Friday, January 16, 2015

Broward Center: Fully Committed (reviews)

edp_FullyCommitted_NS04715Fully Committed opened at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on January 8, 2015.
In this delicious comedy, desperate diners resort to threats, bribes, name-dropping, name-calling and downright begging for that all-important reservation at a posh new restaurant in Manhattan. "Fully Committed" (that's restaurant-speak for "no tables available" unless you're a supermodel, socialite or other VIP) is a one-man show starring John Manzelli who gives a tour-de-force performance as the high-strung maître d' plus 39 other characters!  Arrive 90 minutes before the performance and enjoy drinks and delicious dishes with table service.
John Manzelli directed himself in this one man show with the help of Hugh M. Murphy.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
The burgeoning homegrown theater scene at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts just got a bit larger with the opening of Fully Committed, a solo show with a dizzying array of characters now onstage as part of the Abdo New River Room Theater Series.
John Manzelli… has the daunting task of playing Sam, a reservation taker at a scorching hot Manhattan restaurant, and several dozen other characters. Whether or not Manzelli put on any weight over the holidays, he’s bound to slim down during the run of Fully Committed, which is about as frenzied as a solo show gets… he juggles constantly ringing phones and morphs from character to character with lightning-fast changes in facial expression, physicality and voice. Since most of the characters arrive and disappear so quickly, many are necessarily sketched-in, exaggerated, even stereotypical. But that has at least as much to do with Mode’s script as it does with Manzelli’s performance.
Co-directed by Manzelli and Hugh M. Murphy, the 90-minute, intermission-free play gets fine design work from Sean McClelland (set), Matt Corey (sound) and Preston Bircher (lighting). And if audience members are so inclined, they can turn Fully Committed into a kind of immersive experience by ordering from the Abdo’s “small plates” menu (the food is excellent and affordable, and servings aren’t so small at all).
Mchelle F. Solomon wrote for Florida Theater On Stage:
The smell of whatever was cooking on the small plates dinner theater menu at the Abdo New River Room inside the Broward Center for the Performing Arts added to the plot of this restaurant play even before the curtain went up…
But food is not the main indulgence in this play; it’s about Sam, and the demanding patrons on the other end of the phone, and Sam’s self-important co-workers… Mode’s play introduces 40 characters, which include the main character of Sam, and a host of others that basically test the patience of the hapless telephone answerer.
Manzelli is onstage 90 frenetic minutes zipping from one phone line, to the red wall phone that is the line to and from the Chef, to an intercom upstage that connects Sam to the maitre’d and hostess desk. Manzelli mostly goes along with Mode’s stereotypes, but in some cases he goes deeper into the characters and is able to actually render some of the characters so that they have personalities.  Manzelli is at his best when he has time to draw out his characters. When he is forced to switch quickly from one character to another to another like a ping-pong game early in the play, the characters don’t seem to be distinct enough from each other. But this will probably get more succinct as the run continues.
Manzelli and Hugh M. Murphy directed the play, keeping the action centered, which lets the frantic energy of the characters speak for themselves rather than adding to the pandemonium, which was a wise choice.
The play itself lacks a bit of cohesiveness and is more a New York-centric satire that relies on the ability of its main actor to pull off the unbelievable feat of portraying some non-memorable and mostly zany characters. But Manzelli and company are fully committed: the production values are exceptional and the atmosphere of the Abdo New River Room is entirely cozy. There’s plenty here to create a satisfying theatrical experience.
John Thomason wrote for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times:
The double-entendre in the title of playwright Becky Mode's dynamic 1999 solo show -- "fully committed" suggests a diagnosis at Bellevue but is also restaurant-speak for a night where all reservations have been filled -- speaks volumes about the show's manic energy, directed with unrelenting skill and polish by Manzelli and Hugh M. Murphy. In addition to Sam, Manzelli inhabits nearly 40 other characters in a single, unbroken, hour-and-a-half-long scene in which multiple crises collide in the manner of an Aaron Sorkin script, from detained employees to diarrheal bathrooms to a surprise visit from a Mr. Zagat.
Thanks to shifts in Manzelli's physicality and the repetition of signature gestures, each archetype is fully formed and present, if only for the span it takes him or her to speak a sentence… this whiplash-inducing, marathon performance represents the strongest solo acting in South Florida since Outre Theatre Company's An Iliad in 2013 (kudos too to sound designer Matt Corey, who manages the constant interruptions of two landlines and a buzzer without missing a beat).
Those allergic to one-man shows should note that Fully Committed avoids the clichéd trappings of the genre. There are no arch monologues, no stilted explanations of time and place, no breaking of the fourth wall. We're simply observing an afternoon in a man's harried life, with a few glimpses into the harried lives of others. It may be torture for Sam, but for us, it's an exhilarating experiment.

Fully Committed plays in the Abdo New River Room at The Broward Center for the Performing Arts through February 1, 2015.

No comments:

Post a Comment