Experience a day in the life of struggling actor, Sam, as he works the reservations line of an exclusive New York restaurant where he must pacify the rich, the powerful, the famous and the screwy as well as deal with his temperamental boss and oddball co-workers. And all while he waits for a callback while trying to find a way to get home for Christmas. This is Fully Committed by Becky Mode and currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.
I couldn’t wait to get to work on this review. This was, bar none, the funniest comedy I have ever seen on an Omaha stage. Mode has written a delightful slice of life script that realistically depicts a day in the life of a struggling actor as he works a poorly paid, high stress job in order to be able to audition. While the characters may be somewhat embellished, those who have ever worked a service job will readily recognize the personality types of the many difficult people Sam deals with in the course of a day.
Mode’s script is not only loaded with witticisms, but it had jokes with punchlines that I never saw coming resulting in the loudest and hardest I’ve laughed at a production in years. It also contains some nice story arcs that are convincingly and believably maintained and resolved within the course of the show.
Jim McKain has a stunning directorial debut at the Playhouse with his work in this production. He had a minute understanding of the script and its myriad ups and downs and demonstrated extraordinary acumen in the balancing of the multiple stories in the show as none gets any short shrift. McKain has also guided his lone performer to what may very well be the performance of the year as he helped his actor shape 40 different characters. Some of the characters may be larger than life, but all had a foot firmly planted in reality.
Josh Peyton is a juggernaut of talent as well as a thespian of rare versatility. Each one of his characters is unique and original, differentiated by voice, gestures and body language and imbued with off the charts charisma. His stamina is amazing as he never slows down for a second and I loved how he would use his animation and gestures to transform from one character into the next on the turn of a dust mite (dime just doesn’t seem to cut it).
Some of the many characters Peyton entertains the crowd with are the volatile, surfer dude chef/owner of the restaurant in which he works; the timid, panicky personal assistant of the editor of Bon Appetit magazine; Sam’s loving and folksy father who always says good-bye by saying, “Adios (finger snaps and hand pointing) amigo”; an incredibly effeminate friend/theatre rival; and Gwyneth Paltrow’s overly perky (and occasionally bellicose) assistant.
However, my favorite performance was Peyton’s interpretation of the play’s central character, Sam. Sam is a good and decent man who works hard in a thankless job with a dream of making it as an actor. Peyton is completely believable with Sam’s worries about making rent, his frustrations at hitting a dry spell as an actor, his sadness at not being able to get home for Christmas and his loneliness as he’s just re-entered the single scene.
John Gibilisco had his work cut out for him with what seemed like a few hundred sound cues from the constant ringing of the telephone, the buzz of the private line linking the chef to reservations and the distinctive sound effects that accompanied certain characters. Every ring and chime pulsed life into this world. I liked Jim Othuse’s simple basement set. Enhanced by Darin Kuehler’s properties, it really showed just how low of a man Sam was on the totem pole.
If you’re in need of a good laugh, come see this show. I defy you not have a smile on your face by the time it’s over and it’s also one of the best shows of the year. Strike while you can as tonight’s nearly sold out crowd suggest tickets won’t last long for this one.
Fully Committed runs through April 11. Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets are on sale now starting at $36 with prices varying by performance. Tickets may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, by phone at (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com. The show will be available to rent for at-home viewing beginning Friday, March 26 on the ShowTix4U platform. To view all OCP streaming events on ShowTix4U, visit https://www.showtix4u.com/events/ocp. The show does contain strong language. The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.