The Black Mountain Center For The Arts has found creative new ways to utilize its excellent facility. In recent years the center has increased its share in stage productions. The latest effort — onstage through Sunday, Oct. 30, is the product of the well-known folks behind Asheville’s Improv Comedy troupe, Reasonably Priced Babies. Fully Committed, by Becky Mode, is a tour de force one-character play that takes us through a day in the life of a struggling New York actor, working in the call center of a trendy restaurant.
Tom Chalmers brings his lovably unassuming personality to the role of Sam, the much put-upon fellow around whom the whole show revolves. We meet Sam as he arrives for work only to discover that his two co-workers are not there, leaving him to juggle the ringing phone, and the overbearing personalities of the staff upstairs. Chalmers is a master of comic timing and not only plays Sam, but also all of the other characters in this tale. Its like 90 minutes of talking to yourself, with 40 other voices responding. Chalmers slips between Sam and the fast-paced parade of other characters with ease.
There are numerous callers looking for reservations, including celebrities, tourists and Mafia bosses. Add to that the fussy maître d’, gregarious manager, duplicitous reservations manager and ego-driven chef, just to name a few. Everyone wants something — and Sam only wants to put them on hold while he follows up with his acting agent about an audition, his father about Christmas plans, and his immediate boss, who may be out on a job interview. Chalmers bounces from phone line to phone line to intercom, as all are often ringing at once. It is no small feat for one actor to keep a show like this moving at the brisk pace required, but Chalmers does so for the full hour and a half, uninterrupted and without breaking a sweat.
Mondy Carter directs this madcap show, knowing how to milk every moment of comic gold. He runs Chalmers through his paces in the tiny, confined space. The call center is clearly in the basement, among stacks of liquor boxes and shelves of commercial-size cans of food. There’s also a large calendar, a special board for VIP notices, and a couple of signs declaring that a certain former patron, Ned Finlay, is banned from making a reservation. Karen Stobbe‘s set design is perfect in its starkness and simplicity.
Special kudos to stage manager Grace Carter, who also runs the lights and sound for the show. There are 100 or more sound cues. Most of them are either phones ringing or the intercom. Each has its own unique sound, and the sequences in which they ring must be precise, otherwise Chalmers could find himself inescapably lost amid the complex timing of the show and what comes next in the dozen or more plotlines he is juggling throughout.
The company calls itself The Front Porch Theatre, and while it may not be among the top names of local theater troupes that come to mind, shows like this are sure to put the group into the conversation more fully in the future.
WHAT: Fully Committed by The Front Porch Theatre
WHERE: Black Mountain Center For The Arts, 225 West State St., Black Mountain. blackmountainarts.org
WHEN: Through Sunday, Oct. 30, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. $20