SAN DIEGO—Let me preface my remarks about Fully Committed by Becky Mode and skillfully acted by David McBean at Cygnet’s Rolando space, before I comment on the show itself: If you’ve never been on the receiving end of a customer service phone line or been someone who answers phones for a living making/ taking reservations (albeit part or full time) don’t knock it, mock it or put down the person on the receiving end. No amount of money can compensate! Trust me, I did it for more years than I care to admit.
Mode’s play, a one person juggling act of no less than 40 characters take place in a high class, four star, trendy restaurant in Manhattan where it seems, everyone wants to make a reservation at the same time and on the same night. Sam, (Davis McBean) an out of work actor who is answering phones, making reservations and trying to make everyone happy, is the lone booker. His reliever, we learn is looking for another job.
He is sitting in a grungy basement room (Bonnie L. Durban is responsible for the properties) at a table strewn with empty coffee cups, unfinished chips and piles of junk, donned with a head set, two phones (George Yé is the sound designer) with at least seven or eight lines, an intercom, pen, paper and seating schedule all the while lobbying for a job at Lincoln Center.
When he’s not answering the reservation phone lines, he is taking or making calls to the surly, high maintenance chef, indifferent co-workers, his French maitre d’ or as happened on his watch, cleaning out the ladies room in the restaurant because no one else would do it and chef ordered him to get it done. All in a days work.
Some of the difficult calls he takes (more than once from the same people, I might add) include VIP’s like Naomi Campbell who demands a complicated vegan dish for however many may be in her party on whatever call is coming next, to clients from Wisconsin to a high brow reporter from a Gourmet magazine looking to do an interview with the chef, movie moguls and Mafiosi, the chef’s yoga instructor, Jamie Lee Curtis, to difficult and sugar sweet and finally to the chef’s mother and his father wanting him to get the night off before Christmas to be with him for the holidays.
The problem for most callers wanting a reservation is that the restaurant is ‘fully committed, as the chef would like to see it: all booked for months.
David McBean has been out of the country for about a year but before he left he was one of the more seen around and versatile actors. In 2006 he created the role of Sam for the Cygnet Theatre and is now he is back by popular demand. His rather low profile (directed by Sean Murray and Francis
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Gercke) and even-tempered manner while answering some of the more bizarre requests is a tribute to his versatility and his multitude of facial expressions need no explanation.
To his credit McBean doesn’t get flustered, angry, lose his focus, his different accents or even the tonal changes in his voice as he tackles all the different characters he’s talking to. In fact he is one of the most patient harried and harassed phone person I have ever experienced. More than ever, however, is the sheer talent of switching back and fourth between no less than 40 characters and remembering what line they were on as he attempts to satisfy their impossible requests. How he does it must take some act of concentration: it’s magical.
In an interview article seen in the Jewish Review Becky Mode is quoted as saying that the “quintessentially Jewish grandmother Judith Rush is playwright Becky Mode’s favorite in her play Fully Committed.” “Every time I see her done (the Judith Rush character), I think of my grandma and enjoy it.” “A favorite of many audience members and of Mode herself is eccentric senior citizen Judith Rush, who memorializes Mode’s ‘very Jewish grandmother’ of the same name.” “Sometimes I channel a little old Jewish lady …adding that she is about to start work on a new play about the elderly that will tell more of her grandmother’s story.”
We all look forward to that.
PS: Over the weekend I went to see Yoo-Hoo Mrs. Goldberg at the Landmark Theatre in La Jolla. If you missed it during the Jewish Film Festival, it’s a must see.
Fully Committed plays through Sept. 30th at the Rolando Theatre on El Cajon Blvd. Try it you’ll like it. For more information go to www.cygnettheatre.com
See you at the theatre.