Richard and I saw *Fully Committed* on Broadway on 6/18, starring Jesse Tyler Ferguson. We're not devotees of *Modern Family*, but we like him, and I got cheap tickets, so we checked it out. The play was written in 2000 by Becky Mode, and according to her bio, it's one of the ten most performed plays in the US. It's easy to see why - - it would be perfect for a little theatre company when they're putting together a season. It's got just one actor, one set, it's 70 minutes long, it's a comedy, what's not to like?
It's about Sam, a struggling actor who has a job at the reservations desk for a rootie poo molecular gastronomy restaurant in Lower Manhattan. Ferguson plays Sam and the 40 people he talks with on the phone: irate patrons, staff at the restaurant, his dad, his brother. He did a good job, it's just a shame that he's saddled with such mediocre material. It's the kind of play where the writer plants seeds early in the show and you're damn sure they will come to full fragrant flower before the curtain comes down: there are signs around the room saying NO NED FINLAY!!!, so you're sure that Sam will take a reservation from Ned Finlay by mistake. And spoiler alert, since he hates his job so much and his coworkers and patrons are so awful to him, you're sure that he's going to quit his job before the curtain comes down. There was a lot of that seed-planting, and while Becky Mode might think that makes a well-made play, I don't, when it's done with such a heavy hand.
There's a bigger issue, which I'll explain with a quick diversion. My friend John Kolody saw *A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder* a few years ago. It won the Tony for Best Musical, Richard and I saw it twice, we loved it. John thought the show was clever and the score was very good, but his issue was, to paraphrase him, "It just isn't a Broadway show. It would be perfect in some cute little theater downtown but it just doesn't come across in a big Broadway house."
*Fully Committed* had the same problem. They gave it a big involved set and cast a major TV star in the role, but it's still not a Broadway show. Here's my ideal production of the show: a tiny theater, no more than 100 seats, and a hot shot young actor eager to score a hit. He sits in a chair. No desk, no phone, no changes in lighting. He could even have a handheld device that would ring when the different phones ring. In that setting, the show would be one of the most brilliant things you'd ever see.