Fully Committed, a one-man play by Becky Mode that’s currently being staged at the Shadowland Theatre, is a tour de force for actor Wayne Pyle. The production is set in the basement reservation office of a swanky New York restaurant on a day when half the staff is out sick and everything goes wrong. Pyle plays more than 40 characters, ranging from the reservationist, an out-of-work actor named Sam, to the bad-tempered chef to the demanding, uppity customers.
The play’s verisimilitude is perhaps attributable to the fact that Mode developed the drama in conjunction with the reservations clerk with whom she worked as a waitress at a high-end Manhattan restaurant. As performed by one actor, “It is very funny and an amazing spectacle,” said Shadowland artistic director Brendan Burke, who directs the play. “It’s also about entitlement” – timely, given that “we live in an age of entitlement.”
After choosing the play, which premiered Off-Broadway in 1999, as Shadowland’s comedy offering for the 2012 season, Burke knew that Pyle – a Poughkeepsie resident who extensively toured with The Lion King and has appeared in numerous regional theatre productions – was a perfect fit, given “his ability to become a chameleon, his intelligence and general acting ability.”
What was the secret to being able to exchange characters at the drop of a hat? “Mostly just knowing the story really well, where it’s going and where I’ve already been,” said Pyle, who acknowledged that the process “was like playing ping-pong up against a wall.” It helped that the characters are all familiar types. “We’ve all come into contact with them, no matter what job we’ve done – whether it be a boss like the chef or the friend who calls you at work and asks why you’re still on the job.”
Burke said that rehearsing just one actor presented a unique challenge. “A seven-hour rehearsal with just one actor is not that productive. We worked at a realistic pace.” Switching characters so quickly required Pyle to “be very specific,” he added. “Some characters were more difficult than others. Some were home runs right off the bat.” And, unlike the series of monologues that normally constitute a one-man performance, Fully Committed is a full-length play, adding to the challenge.
Shadowland, a professional Actors’ Equity company, is located in a restored Art Deco theatre in Ellenville. The Theatre has recently completed the second phase of a $1 million capital campaign, with a new lobby, façade, marquee, offices and expanded seating.
Performances of Shadowland Theatre’s Fully Committed run Thursdays-Sundays through July 15. Tickets cost $30 for Thursday through Saturday 8 o’clock shows, and $25 for Sunday 2 p.m. matinees, with a $2 student or senior discount. Call (845) 647-5511 or visit www.shadowlandtheatre.org for more information. The Shadowland Theatre is located at 157 Canal Street in Ellenville.