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BWW Review: Jesse Tyler Ferguson Takes On The Difficult Juggling Act of FULLY COMMITTED

If anyone's wondering whatever happened to all those chairs from last season's DOCTOR ZHAVAGO, it seems that - perhaps after John Doyle nabbed a couple of dozen to adorn the set of his revival of THE COLOR PURPLE - Derek McLane may have fashioned what was left into a kind of whirlwind of seats that climb to the upper reaches of his set for director Jason Moore's Broadway production of Becky Mode's Fully Committed.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Photo: Joan Marcus)

It's rather fitting actually. With the play's central character being the telephone reservationist at Manhattan's latest three-month-waiting-list-for-a-table eatery, the eighty-minute play is a bit of a whirlwind of characters, most of them either desperate for a table or connected enough to expect one on demand.

And all of them, forty in total, are portrayed by one fellow. Mode molded the play onto actor Mark Setlock, based on their experiences working together at one of New York's high end dining establishments, and their successful 1999 Vineyard Theatre production was followed by a 675-performance run at the Cherry Lane. Setlock was replaced during the run by Roger Bart, a then-recent Tony winner for YOU'RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN, who was succeeded by Christopher Fitzgerald. Both were relative unknowns at the time who have since emerged as Broadway favorites. (Bart is currently starring on Broadway in DISASTER! and Fitzgerald is earning big laughs in WAITRESS.)

But the current casting of Jesse Tyler Ferguson, a solid stage performer who has earned nationally-known star status with the hit ABC comedy "Modern Family," demands that Mode's new updated version of Fully Committed reserve a Broadway house, a move that may not exactly serve this intimate affair very well.

The slight plot has Sam, a struggling actor who spends his work hours juggling calls and crowbarring in reservations for celebrities, trying to figure out a way to spend Christmas with his recently widowed dad. But that's just the grounding devise. The main attraction is the collection of haughty, privileged and colorful characters Sam deals with on the phone every day, not to mention his demanding chef and snooty maitre'd.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Photo: Joan Marcus)

McLane's dungeon-like basement office is impressively imposing and detailed, but above all else, Fully Committed is a performance showcase, requiring full attention on the star's skill in volleying from one set of voice and mannerisms to another.

Last season Christina Bianco delivered a dazzling display of acting dexterity bouncing from character to character in the similarly structured APPLICATION PENDING, but Ferguson, despite being an appealing clown who is empathetic as Sam, doesn't show the same kind of skill at crisply differentiating between his characters. He fares much better during Sam's sincere moments talking with his dad.

Without an expert mimic taking charge, Fully Committed is little more than pleasantly amusing with a sweet finish. Still, there's no doubt that the energetic Ferguson is fully committed to the difficult task.

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