Telephone follies

Fully Committed

Rated 4.0 People love to make comparisons. My hunch is that some people will be looking at Foothill Theatre Company’s production of Fully Committed (starring Gary Alan Wright) with a backward glance at the Sacramento Theatre Company’s earlier extended-run production (starring Matt K. Miller).

And why not? Over a 10-year period at Foothill, Wright has tackled numerous comic and dramatic roles and written several good scripts. Miller hasn’t been in this region for as long, but we’ve seen him in Arms and the Man, The Little Prince and other plays. He’s also writing a script for the Sacramento Theatre Company (STC).

Fully Committed is a strenuous challenge for any actor. It’s a one-man show, and that man is onstage virtually nonstop for 90 minutes, popping in and out of 37 characters. Both the stage manager, Matthew H. Compton in Foothill’s production, and the soundboard operator, Jenn Gilbert, are required to make precisely timed moves, or the whole thing will crash.

The setting is a basement room below a high-class Manhattan restaurant, equipped with several phones and an intercom. A hapless reservation clerk (and aspiring actor) named Sam Peliczowski is single-handedly coping with an overwhelming load of incoming calls from high-society customers, personal friends, his agent, his dad, etc.

Wright—who didn’t see Miller’s version—comes up with different spins on many of the characters. For example, his version of Mrs. Sebag is perpetually close to tears but not as loud as Miller’s version (a screamer). Overall, the actors’ performances are almost equally good, with Wright’s version of Sam being a tad more willful, and Miller’s more vulnerable.

Scenic designer Troy Hemmerling plays up the New York City angle more visually than STC’s production did, and director Greg Alexander finds a few more interludes in the generally relentless pace.

Actually, the most critical difference is the performance space. STC’s little Stage Two has 90 seats, five rows deep. There, you could see Miller sweat, and you could observe the small gradations of his facial gestures. Wright is in a space that’s nearly three times larger, and he gears his work accordingly. Like Miller, Wright burns hundreds of calories racing back and forth. We predict he’ll lose 10 pounds by the time the run ends.