“Makes you appreciate your day job, doesn’t it?” These were the words I heard as I exited Threshold Rep last night. A man, talking to his friend, was referring to Fully Committed’s main character, Sam Peliczowski, and his job as a reservations manager at an upscale New York City restaurant.
At first, though, I assume he’s talking about Adam Miles, the guy who just performed for an hour and a half straight — the actor who embodied 40 different characters (including Sam), with little more than a headset and a couple of phones. Acting? You couldn’t pay me enough for that day job.
Fully Committed is a big commitment, something I have an inkling of from talking to Miles myself. Months of practice, weird dreams, and endless memorization exercises got him to the stage he stood on last night. I could see, at times, that Miles was struggling with a character, accidentally melding two voices, or taking a beat too long to remember who he was supposed to be. With 40 voices in his head, can you blame him?
As Sam, Miles shines. Sam is an out-of-work actor who, between calls from impatient customers, phones his agent to see if he has any callbacks. Sam is earnest and patient, and as the play progresses, so does he, becoming wilier and snarkier, finally making people work for him, instead of the other way around. Go to this play to see Sam, a normal guy who just wants to get home to see his widowed dad for Christmas. Sam has heart, giving Fully Committed enough heart to warm yours.
Of the other characters, I cannot say the same. A lot of this has to do with the original work, written by Becky Mode. The French cook who won’t talk to a very Jewish woman because “she’s so ugly”? Meh. Stereotypes run wild throughout the show — with success in the form of hilarious gay Bryce, and with mediocre results for several similar-sounding British women.
The audience, despite the few unlikable, and worse, unremarkable characters, loved the show. The house was packed and people howled with laughter every few minutes or so. I love the intimacy of Threshold Rep — people in the front row could reach out and touch Miles if they so desired. I looked around me, pleased to see a more diverse group of people than I’ve been seeing at Spoleto shows. This is neither here nor there, but I think it speaks to the genuinely local aspect of Piccolo Spoleto.
The end of the play doesn’t take a surprising twist or turn — I think most people would hope for it to end this way — but it does offer a refreshing reprieve from an hour and 15 minutes of some insufferable people. When Sam finally disses someone, or decides to walk out on a call, people in the audience cheer and clap. We have a hero, someone who wouldn’t appear this way if it weren’t for his horde of unlikable characters. Miles, then, has become someone great and someone terrible, just by changing his voice and mannerisms. It’s a challenge for any actor — but a standing ovation suggests that it’s worth all the work.