Watching John Manzelli turn on a dime from one character to another and then back again in "Fully Committed" is like watching a high-wire act in which the tightrope has been electrified for extra thrills and giggles.
The one-man show about Sam, a high-strung and harried reservations manager at an uber-popular Manhattan restaurant, is part of the Abdo New River Room Theater Series at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale. The series offers audiences light entertainment and small-plate dinners in the newly designed cabaret space, turning the multipurpose room into a supper club with 144 seats around tables of four.
The comedy is essentially a whirlwind tour of socialites, celebrities, name-droppers (Naomi Campbell, Diane Sawyer, Jane Lynch, Vladimir Putin, Frank Gehry, Gordon Ramsay, someone named Marco Rubio) and wannabes all scheming to get a reservation (two months in advance!) at a prime table through Sam by coercion, bribes and even threats.
Stuck in the basement office of the eatery, Sam is also frenziedly juggling an egomaniacal boss; flaky co-workers; a going-nowhere acting career; his recently widowed father; and an apocalyptic bathroom situation. In all, there are 40 characters, and Manzelli delivers on each of them over a dizzying 80 minutes with no intermission.
It is a fabulous feat. A wonder to watch. And yet it must be said that the script by Becky Mode could be funnier. It is funny-ish, requiring a little extra push from Manzelli with physical humor that throws the choreography off just half a tick before being snapped back in place by the finely tuned production design (set by Sean McClelland, lighting by Preston Bircher and sound by Matt Corey).
"Fully Committed" will run through Feb. 1 at the Abdo New River Room at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., in Fort Lauderdale. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, with 3 p.m. matinees Sundays. Tickets cost $45 (does not include food, beverage or gratuity). To order, call 954-462-0222 or go to BrowardCenter.org.