Crawford Fully Committed to a Menagerie of Fully Formed Characters
One man, a handful of phones, and over 40 strong personalities — The Grand Theatre’s Fully Committed features Gavin Crawford in a masterful performance where he presents and embraces a menagerie of fully-formed characters.
The play is only an hour and a half, with no intermission, in duration. But it is at once both a sprint and a marathon, as Crawford navigates through over 40 different characters, ranging from persistent socialite Carolann Rosenstein-Fishburn to Gwyneth Paltrow’s assistant Bryce to restaurant hostess Steph. But at the heart of the play is struggling actor Sam, who pays his bills as a reservations receptionist at a high-end New York restaurant.
The play has an emotional undercurrent that is designed to be a tether to which the entire production is held — the recent dissolution of Sam’s relationship, a family drama about Christmas, and an acting career that’s been less than fruitful. But really, that’s a minor aspect of the show. Instead, Fully Committed is a true showcase for an actor’s ability to immerse him or herself in a variety of characters.
Yes, the ending is a little too neatly packaged, wrapping the various threads up in a pleasant, but utterly predictable, bow. But it is the journey that is to be celebrated. Crawford’s ability to shed characters and slip into new ones — then call back those characters later in the production without missing a beat — is stunning.
It’s not just the voices and the accents that set the characters apart. Crawford is able to infuse each of the characters with a personality. There are unique mannerisms and affectations that remain consistent — from maître d’ Jean-Claude’s raised hands to chef’s lascivious thrustings to frenemy Jerry’s surfer-infused hip-cocked humble brags. Crawford doesn’t just imitate characters — he embodies them, from head to toe, with unique facial expressions, speech patterns, vocal tics, and behaviour patterns that feel natural.
The source material allows for each of these characters to shine. Sam has to juggle multiple internal priorities and personalities within the restaurant while striving to meet the needs of a demanding clientele. It explores a world of the celebrity chef — and the people who want to be in that star’s orbit. And at the bottom of the rung is Sam, dealing frantically with unreasonable requests, inflated self-opinions, and the expectations of the rich and famous.
The stage itself is well crafted. With so much of a focus required on the production’s only actor, the set needs to be complementary in nature. It needs to feel part of the scene, but not in any way distract from the star. And Michael Gianfrancesco’s set design does just that. It is ostensibly a cluttered basement office, complete with a stairwell up to the restaurant. But there are so many subtle elements that add to the realism of the production (from signs posted in lockers to ratty staff couches) that nothing seems out of place and everything feels a natural part of the environment.
But ultimately, the success or failure of this production lies in its star’s ability. In the hands of a lesser actor, Fully Committed could be a disaster of hubris. However, Crawford’s talent and ability to create and present fully formed characters — even if they only have a couple of lines — is admirable and Fully Committed is a play that allows actors with that level of talent to shine.