An Unusual Holiday Tie-In Fits The Bill As Stray Dog Presents “Fully Committed”

Greg Fenner is never at a loss for words- his character Sam's and numerous others during  "Fully Committed" at Stray Dog Theatre. Photo: John Lamb

Greg Fenner is never at a loss for words- his character Sam’s and numerous others- during “Fully Committed” at Stray Dog Theatre. Photo: John Lamb

It’s not “A Christmas Carol” or even the unconventional but appropriate “Season’s Greeting” that St. Louis Actors’ Studio is presenting for the holidays, but Stray Dog Theatre gives us a loose connection to the yuletide festivities with Becky Mode’s hyper one-man show, “Fully Committed.” Greg Fenner gets the call in this one (or should I say “calls?”) as he plays an enormous amount of characters during this 90-minute tour-de-force.

We see a dilapidated basement office of a trendy New York restaurant with the usual trappings of cluttered shelves, odds and ends laying all over and two desks. It’s early December and this is the reservation call-in area for the posh eatery. We soon learn that one person has taken an unscheduled day off while another has supposedly had an auto accident which leaves Sam alone to handle the multiple calls for reservations, a few personal calls (he’s really an actor waiting for callbacks as he works “temporarily” at the restaurant) and even calls from other folks in the restaurant including a very angry chef.

Greg Fenner as Sam juggles multiple phone calls during Stray Dog's "Fully Committed." Photo: John Lamb

Greg Fenner as Sam juggles multiple phone calls during Stray Dog’s “Fully Committed.” Photo: John Lamb

Enough can’t be said for Greg Fenner’s performance. Not only does he have to deliver 90 minutes of dialogue, he has to portray the series of customers on the phone and keep all of those characters’ voices and mannerisms correct. It’s an unusual convention that works beautifully once we get into the play. A bit disconcerting at first, once we get the flow it’s amazing as he slips from Sam into a snobby socialite into a bitter colleague and into an amazing number of others including his father who sounds suspiciously like Jimmy Stewart. He handles these changes of character with flawless precision providing distinct body language, mannerisms and voice inflections for each and every one.

The highlights include the fey assistant to Naomi Campbell and the belligerent chef who you can just picture chewing on a stubby cigar while steam pours out of his ears. But there are so many that it’s a wonder that Mr. Fenner can keep everyone straight while delivering a frenetic yet perfectly pitched performance.

Director Gary F. Bell (also Artistic Director of Stray Dog) keeps the pace and the actor moving at warp speed. The amazing audio design of Justin Been handles the numerous incoming calls and other distractions and he has also provided the exquisite set design. Tyler Duenow’s lights also add to the dreary yet chaotic events of the evening.

“Fully Committed” may not be the first play that pops into mind at Christmas time, but it’s a worthy addition to the wonderful holiday themed and just plain fun shows the entire St. Louis theatre community has put forth for us this year. Give them a call at 314-865-1995 or contact them at straydogtheatre.org for tickets or more information.

 

 

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