'Fully Committed' and 'Of Mice and Men': Two studies in human fortunes


GREAT BARRINGTON -- Sam, the restaurant reservations clerk at the center of Becky Mode's one-actor, 40-character play "Fully Committed," isn't having a very good day.

The out-of-work actor is anxiously awaiting word from his agent about a second callback audition for a role in a production at Lincoln Center. He also is facing having to work on Christmas Day, which would keep him from spending the holiday with his ailing, lonely widower father in South Bend, Ind.

As Sam's presumably eight-hour shift in his basement office in one of New York's trendiest restaurants stretches into a marathon -- thanks to the absence of his immediate boss, Bob, the reservations manager -- it becomes abundantly clear that Sam is at the bottom of the food chain -- literally and figuratively.

Sam is a study in perpetual motion as he flies from one telephone to another -- there are four in the office -- putting out fires created by demanding clients seeking table bookings at a restaurant where bookings are at a premium; by food industry celebs who turn up unannounced for lunch; by a demanding owner and an even more temperamental chef. And just as the whirlwind reaches peak intensity, Sam is ordered to clean up the mess left in the ladies room by a customer whose bowels had a will of their own.

Daniel Osman adroitly navigates the obstacle course Mode sets up as he shifts between Sam and the cast of characters whose own needs come first.

He's a savvy actor, older than Sam but skillful enough to affectingly capture Sam's vulnerabilities. At the same time, the seams showed in the performance I attended; more an exercise in mechanics and technique. Osman is too experienced, too fully committed an actor to let that stand.


CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. -- The going is far more arduous and considerably less promising in the workmanlike, emotionally arid production of John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" at Hubbard Hall.

Steinbeck's 1937 novel about friendship, belonging, securing a sense of place, a haven within and without is well-suited to the stage. Steinbeck's transition from printed page to stage is smooth.

But while director Jeannine Haas is true to the events of Steinbeck's story, her actors for the most part do no service to the story's rich emotional texture and social context. Her production for Hubbard Hall Theater Company plods through its nearly 21 2 hours without much, if any, emotional authenticity, particularly in the relationship between Chris Barlow's one-dimensional Lennie, a mentally challenged giant of a man whose desperate need to cling to the things he loves bears disaster, and James Udom's George, Lennie's protector and guardian at the cost of his own dreams and ambitions. You can sense Udom's urgency to work the range of impulses that move George, his need as an African-American to prove himself in a white culture. But the heart of Steinbeck's story rests on the relationship between George and Lennie, their bond. Unfortunately, here the connections simply isn't there and that void strips the play of its dramatic tension and leaves Haas' production to drift.

Too many others in the cast are more interested in affecting attitudes rather than creating characters, especially Jack Boggan whose ranch foreman, Curly, is an exercise in cartoon posturing, and Maizy Scarpa who, as Curly's libidinous wife, bears none of the sexually kinetic manner that seals her fate, as well as that of Lennie and of George.

Rob Rowe provides a reassuring presence as a ranchhand named Slim. It says a great deal about this production that it is at its most emotionally and thematically authentic in Doug Ryan's Candy, a ranchhand who desperately insinuates himself into George's plans for a more peaceful life for himself and for Lennie. Dreams die hard, however. So does this production.


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