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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
FULLY COMMITTED
at Lyceum Theatre

THANKLESS TASKS
By BRIAN SCOTT LIPTON

  Jesse Tyler Ferguson/ Ph: Joan Marcus

Since its very successful Off-Broadway premiere in 1999, Fully Committed, Becky Mode’s one-person, multi-character “comedy” has had more than 200 productions across the country. The reasons, I suspect, are partly financial (it’s been very cheap to produce) and partly its content. After watching this story of a beleaguered reservationist at an ultra-swanky New York restaurant, most audience members will leave this 80-minute show feeling that their jobs, no matter how low-paying or torturous, aren't as bad as our protagonist’s. (And for everyone else, as they say, misery loves company.)

In 2016, with the show finally landed on Broadway – with Modern Family star Jesse Tyler Ferguson front and center – the latter truth not only remains the same, it feels even more resonant. In the intervening decades, so many of us have been asked to multitask at our jobs, while making less money, working holidays, foregoing lunch, and figuratively and literally cleaning up the messes made by others.

As for the former, well, that has changed a lot since 1999. What’s onstage at the Lyceum Theatre is hardly a bare-bones production. Working with the savvy director Jason Moore, the brilliant designer Derek McLane has contributed a beautifully conceived set. Sam’s shabby basement workplace has been outfitted to the last detail, from the ever-ringing red phone to the old filing cabinets and microwave to the clanging steam pipes. Moreover, it all sits in front of a super-wide and super-tall wall of illuminated wine bottles and shelving, and squarely beneath an aerial sculptural of chairs meant to represent the eatery upstairs. It’s perfection.

Meanwhile, Ferguson is surely making well above community-theater pay – and he’s worth every penny. This always-appealing actor brings an ideal combination of sugar and spice to Sam, a struggling actor whose other woes include the recent breakup with his boyfriend and the loss of his mother. Most importantly, Sam is a good Midwestern-bred boy who basically tries to please everyone he encounters (via phone) from his good-natured father to his pompous boss Jean-Claude, his sneaky coworker Bob, the overly officious Chef, his competitive actor buddy Jerry, and the multitude of callers begging, cajoling, bribing, demanding and imploring him to do whatever they want to get what they need. (And let’s hope Gwyneth Paltrow really wouldn’t really ask to replace a lighting sconce!)  It’s a hard-knock life, indeed, for poor Sam.

Ferguson also shows off a surprisingly strong ability to give each of the characters he embodies a distinct voice and accent, as well as a signature physical trait, so that each of these people seem real to us, from unhappy senior citizen Judith Rush to socialite Bunny Vandevere to the exceedingly obnoxious
“regular” Carolann Rosenstein-Fishburn. Indeed, in Ferguson’s expert hands, one is tempted to rename the play Fully Differentiated.

 


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