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Review: Fully Committed at the Ensemble

By Michelle Fisher

On a black stage ringed with a myriad of telephones the stage is set for the underground reservations department of the swank restaurant in Woolloomooloo where Sam (Contessa Treffone) is the sole receptionist on duty as her colleagues have taken the day off due to “personal matters.“

Sam, who is already having a bad day as her girlfriend has moved out and she is having trouble getting time off for Christmas to go home to her dad (the first without her mum) is stuck answering calls that just keep coming from A listers, socialites, people who think they should be VIP’s and a host of others. In almost slapstick style she runs from one phone to the other putting people on hold and then trying to deal with their absurd requests in a restaurant that is “Fully Committed” (no room left in real terms) with a waiting list of 3 months.

Comedically showing that Molecular gastronomy restaurants are more about the latest trend and the who who’s than the actual eating or even the food, Sam must try and fit the VIP VIP’s in when there are no tables at all and keep her job at the same time. Originally played by a man and set in NYC this play has been adapted to the Sydney scene and references in general have been changed to reflect this. The only slight criticism I have of this is that it seemed unlikely that Gwyneth Paltrow’s assistant would be calling or coming to check things herself or sending someone over to change light globes. Even changing this to Nonetheless the references to the Ensemble and Mark Kilmurry kept the audience laughing and Contessa’s accents also kept the play believable as set in Australia.

As an actress Contessa took on a huge role in this – playing Sam the receptionist and about 30 odd other characters who she voiced as well. Playwright Becky Mode has made this a real challenge for one actor and Contessa rises to the task beautifully, she is funny and believable and physically all over the set making for some great comic moments as well as some more personal ones like with her dad.

It is Contessa that keeps the audience engaged in what is a rather predictable script but the newcomer on the Sydney theatre scene seems to just be swinging from major success (like in STC’s Lord of the Flies) to major success. Unquestionably, she is one to watch at the moment and I for one will be buying my ticket to whatever show she is in next…after all, she did just take on over 30 characters and all successfully (to varying degrees) which surely speaks volumes to her rising talent.

The set, designed by Anna Tregloan, may have been quite simple but was very effective in making us believe she truly had been left in a dark room in the basement of the restaurant with far too many phones for one operator to ever be able to conceivably answer alone. Director Kate Champion’s decision to utilise the whole stage by using so many of these phones gave the otherwise wordy script a vibrancy that allowed Contessa simply to shine even more.

Perhaps this show won’t be for everyone – it is a little verbose and is predictable – however, I encourage you to look past these elements of the script and instead sit back and enjoy a highly comedic show with an exceptionally hardworking and talented actor at its helm.

Playing at the Ensemble Theatre until the 16th Nov this play makes for a fun night out with some good laughs.

Image Credit: Prudence Upton

All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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