If it wasn't for the restaurant business, actor-wannabes living in New York would probably starve to death. Not because that's where they eat – they couldn't afford the prices. Rather, that's where many – if not most – eke out a living while waiting for that one big break into the glitzy, exciting world of showbiz.
Few make it, of course; there are significantly more jobs waiting tables than there are leading roles on Broadway. But that doesn't stop gaggles of hopefuls from flocking to the Big Apple each year in search of the American dream.
One who DID find success is actress Becky Mode. Recalling her experiences serving food to the multitudes and – after achieving fame writing TV sitcoms – trying to make reservations at trendy New York eateries, Mode combined the two into her first play, "Fully Committed," named by Time magazine as one of the 10 best plays of 2000. Now it's one of the most often performed plays in America.
It's easy to see why, thanks to the laugh-filled production now appearing at the Williamston Theatre.
Set in the days before Christmas in the drab basement of New York's hottest, hippest restaurant, out-of-work actor and reservations clerk Sam Peliczowski arrives to find the phones ringing off the hook and none of his co-workers there to help him. So he puts on his headset and gets his day underway.
And what a hectic day it is! From snooty rich folk trying to worm their way onto the reservations list to foreigners whose grasp of English proves frustrating, Sam tries his best to give everyone the best service possible. But it's a relatively thankless job, since the restaurant is "fully committed" – or solidly booked – on weekends through the end of February.
His personal life is also in turmoil: News from his agent isn't very promising, and his recently widowed father is disappointed to learn Sam won't be home for Christmas because of work.
Only a Christmas miracle could make things better. Or an obnoxious customer no one wants to deal with!
Although playwright Mode has filled her script with more than three dozen delicious characters to have fun with, what makes or breaks "Fully Committed" is the skill of the actor who must bring each and every one to life. Even the slickest direction won't save the show if the sole performer fails to differentiate its many and varied characters. So it was no surprise that director Tony Caselli chose one of the few actors in town most would agree is fully capable of turning in a star performance in such a difficult role: 2006 Wilde Award-winner Aral Gribble.
With more voices, gestures and facial expressions than you thought humanly possible, the gifted Gribble thoroughly captures the unique personalities of his characters – and never mixes them up. That's especially true when Caselli has him running about the stage from one crisis and phone to another; it's precision directing and acting at its finest.
Williamston Theatre, 122 S. Putnam, Williamston. Thu.-Sun., through March 25. Tickets: $18-$22. For information: 517-655-7469 or http://www.williamstontheatre.org