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New Jersey by Bob Rendell

Theatre Project Fully Committed
A Showcase for a Fresh Young Actress

Also see Bob's review of The Glass Menagerie

Fully Committed
Jenelle Sosa
Since its New York debut at the Vineyard Theatre in 1999, neophyte playwright Becky Mode's 70-minute one-man, three dozen character play Fully Committed, in actuality an extended comedy sketch, has been highly praised and most popular. Featuring characters developed by Mode and original performer Mark Setlock, it is based on Setlock's experiences as a telephone reservationist at a chic, expensive Manhattan restaurant where Mode was a waitress. The play's title is the pretentious phrase which the restaurant uses in lieu of "fully booked."

In a departure from the original production, and possibly for the first time anywhere, reservationist Sam and her three dozen or so callers of both sexes are being portrayed by a woman. This is perfectly appropriate (audience members will instantly conclude that "Sam" is here short for "Samantha"). It becomes sublime when that woman is the fresh and talented Jenelle Sosa.

Fully Committed is set in real time in a dreary, dank basement reservations office of the hottest, most chic, most expensive restaurant in Manhattan. With the other reservationists out, Sam Peliczowski, an aspiring young actress, is constantly barraged with telephone calls from reservation seekers, her bosses, fellow staff members, family and friends. And while Mode's play is certainly well observed, funny and entertaining, it is Ms. Sosa and her performance which give this Theatre Project production particular distinction and interest.

After all, how important or interesting are the machinations of the rich and influential as they employ and enhance their status by obtaining reservations and the best tables at "in" restaurants to those of us who do not read Page Six and only attend haute restaurants on special occasions? Civilians seeking reservations are depicted as clueless (parenthetically, I am aware of one great restaurant in New York that makes civilians feel that its raison d'être is to please them). There are satisfying through plot lines involving her desire to return home to spend Christmas with her recently widowed father, and her frustration with her agent and auditions. Less satisfying is a plot development which finds Sam forced to leave her post to clean an overflowed toilet (to which Tim Zagat is heading) because "all the busboys are hiding." Besides Tim Zagat, a half dozen or so other names are dropped. Most essential here is Naomi Campbell (does she actually have an unctuously polite assistant named Bryce?). And it took a little research for me to place Barbarians at the Gate billionaire Henry Kravis.

Director Rick Delaney has performed masterfully in what he describes as helping guide Sosa through this difficult performance piece. Delaney's entire design team has performed well.

The most interesting and exciting part of this production is the casting and performance of the fresh 25-year-old Jenelle Sosa. Sosa portrays each of her roles with a distinctive and witty rapid fire series of voices, accents, and speech patterns which clearly delineate each from the other. There also are perceptible changes in body movement and facial expression. In light of the pace of the dialogue, the detail achieved is quite an accomplishment. In viewing such a tour de force, the viewer sees the interstitial stage persona of the performer. And the dynamic, diminutive young actress appealingly radiates intense energy with a calm, confident center. Although she has yet to receive her Equity card, Sosa has been working regularly with various small theatres (she has excelled in previous Theatre Project productions), troupes and fairs in the metropolitan area over the last four years. It would come as no surprise to learn that the Theatre Project has produced Fully Committed in order to showcase her talents.

Given the problematic and quixotic nature of the acting profession, it would be rash to make any predictions about the future of Jenelle Sosa at such an early stage in her career. It should be sufficient to note that for these three weeks, thanks to artistic director Mark Spina and his Theatre Project, Jenelle Sosa is a star. And for this, everyone who gets to see this production of Fully Committed will be grateful.

Fully Committed continues performances (Thurs.-Sat. 8 pm/ Sun. 3 pm) through April 13, 2008 at the Theatre Project at Union County College, 1033 Springfield Ave., Cranford, NJ 07016. Box Office: 908-659-5189/ online: www.TheTheaterProject.com.

Fully Committed by Becky Mode; directed by Rick Delaney

Cast
Sam, et al ...... Jenelle Sosa


Photo: Kevin Sebastian


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- Bob Rendell



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