Fully Committed

For most of us, the closest we'll ever come to jostling for a table at a hot restaurant is in the frantic countdown to Valentine's Day. But for jet-setters, celebrities, and other VIPs, seeing and being seen at the newest rage is de rigueur, darling, and the crème de la crème will stop at nothing to make it happen.

Photo of Chris Willard as Sam
Chris Willard as Sam
So when Sam, an under-employed actor (Is there any other kind?) is hired on the reservation line at the latest culinary sensation in Manhattan, it's no surprise that he is subjected to non-stop abuse, cajoling, and snootiness from the patrons at the other end of the constantly ringing telephone. What is surprising, though, is that Chris Willard, who does a terrific job as the esteemed-challenged, over-worked thespian, is just as amazing playing the other hundred or so characters that call in all day long or buzz him incessantly on the intercom.

Directed by John Ashton, Willard has taken his successful one-man show from last summer at Lake Dillon Theatre and turned it into a detailed, ever-morphing tour de force at the Avenue Theater that, in any other circumstances, would get him locked up in the nuthouse for multiple personality disorders.

Photo of Chris Willard as Sam
The chef calls in the
middle of a reservation.
Armed with an infinitely malleable face, a slew of dialects, and the physical mannerisms to go with them, Willard's Sam moves constantly in his basement command post between the switchboard, the chef's private line, and the intra-restaurant paging system, trying to keep everyone happy while pleasing no one.

For this Sam gets no respect. The sous chef forgets to inform him that the employees' meal has been served, so he goes hungry. Then, when his fellow reservationist fails to show up for work, Sam is forced to work without a break, even to get to the restroom.

Photo of Chris Willard as Sam
Sam's friend gets a callback,
and a national commercial.
On top of this, an acting friend never fails to call with his own good news, something that Sam is woefully short on. Oh, and for good measure, his widower father rings, hoping that Sam might be able to come home and visit for Christmas. But alas, being the low man on the totem pole, he can't get away.

If all this weren't bad enough, he is forced to perform the most demeaning job in the entire restaurant. What else could possibly go wrong in Sam's life?

Suddenly, through one of his "enlightened" customers, Sam discovers that taking reservations at one of the Big Apple's most exclusive dining spots has more power than he ever dreamed.

How is it possible that he could earn a decent living, be cast in shows at the Lincoln Center, and get time off for Christmas vacation by doing the same thing that he's been doing every day since he got here?

Drop in on Chris Willard and his "friends" to find out, and pick up a few tips on how to impress your Valentine while you're at it.

The Avenue Theatre's production of Fully Committed has been extended to March 20th. Call the box office for times. 303-321-5925.

Bob Bows


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