Saturday, July 25, 2009

"Fully Committed" Indeed

Posted by Bruce Miller
We had a GREAT Opening last night for Fully Committed, the hip and hysterically funny comedy that will be playing through August 30 at the historic Hanover Tavern, directed by the very talented Steve Perigard and starring the one and only Scott Wichmann (pictured in the Eric Dobbs photos above).

In attendance for the auspicious Opening, laughing their socks off, were Barksdale / Theatre IV All-Stars including Tom and Carlene Bass, the production’s wonderful light designer Slade Billew and his wife and the production’s soon-to-be stage manager Christina Billew, Traci Coogle with Empire Theatre portraitist Pat Cully, Judi and Bill Crenshaw, Catherine Dudley, Tony Foley, Phyllis and Paul Galanti, and the production’s masterful costume designer Sue Griffin accompanied by Wayne Shields.

Also serving in the guffaw brigade were invaluable ushers Bev and Danny Hobson, Audra Honaker, Jeannie and Christina Kilgore (our house manager and ticket taker extraordinaire), Tom and Carmella McGranahan, Marie McGranahan and Gayle Turner, the production’s sound op Andrew Montak, Steve Perigard (of course) and Robert Throckmorton.

The production’s terrific scenic designer Terrie Powers (accompanied by yours truly and our two kids: Curt Miller, now working as Theatre IV’s groundsman and Hannah Miller, now working in our group sales dept) further filled out the ranks, joining the irreplaceable Essie Simms, Jill Bari Steinberg (or is it Jill Bari Organ these days?), and Wendy Vandergrift (the production’s stage manager) accompanied by her husband Michael.

Thanks to one and all for coming.

I always scoff at theatregoers who leave a show saying things like, “How did he ever learn all those lines.” For those of us who’ve done this a few times, 99 times out of a hundred learning the lines is the easy part.

Not so with Fully Committed.

The play takes place in the subterranean bowels of one of the snobbiest four-star eateries in Manhattan. Scotty plays Sam Peliczowski, the looking-for-work actor who mans the reservation hot line. Usually Sam shares his basement “office” with the reservations manager and a second phone operator. Today, both co-workers fail to appear, and Sam is on his own.

The hit script by Becky Mode, who by the way is an old college classmate of Robert Throckmorton’s, requires the show’s sole actor to portray 42 different characters—everything from a very soft spoken and polite Japanese woman to a boisterous lounge singer who’s been banned from the restaurant forever. So Scotty is changing characters every few seconds.

But the dazzling part—the unbelievable part, to my mind—is that in many, many instances each of the individual lines that Scotty has memorized has virtually nothing to do with the lines that precede it or the lines that follow. The phone to the outside world is constantly ringing, as is the direct line to the chef’s office AND the intercoms connecting the reservations dept to the maitre d’hotel, the business manager, and the kitchen. Scotty shifts from one disconnected conversation to another with such precision, I’m honestly in awe of the brainpower that must be involved. Because of the lacks of connection, I can’t even imagine how difficult these lines were to learn.

But with Scotty’s capable cognition, it all comes off without a hitch, managing to be both hilarious and heartfelt at the same time. If you love theatre, this performance is simply not to be missed.

The non-theatre question on everyone’s lips is this. Is Scott really joining the military? Answer: Yes, the Navy Reserves. Follow-up question: Is he really leaving Richmond theatre for an extended period of time? Answer: If he gets his way, yes.

Knowing that our nation is at war, and simultaneously knowing that he is no way compelled to join the fight, Scotty nonetheless feels duty-bound to answer the call. He refuses to let the war be another person’s burden. He has enlisted in the Navy Reserves. He has asked the Navy to deploy him to the front, most likely Afghanistan, as soon as his four months of basic training are over. He expects this request to be honored, and he is very excited about having the opportunity to serve.

That’s one hell of a guy. Again, I’m in awe.

But for the next six weekends, Scotty and his comic genius are all ours.

Hope to see you at the theatre!

--Bruce Miller

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