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BWW Interview: FULLY COMMITTED Starring Maulik Pancholy is Perfection at George Street Playhouse

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Interview: FULLY COMMITTED Starring Maulik Pancholy

BWW Interview: FULLY COMMITTED Starring Maulik Pancholy 
 is Perfection at George Street Playhouse If timing is everything, FULLY COMMITTED produced by George Street Playhouse, has enough for a Michelin star. The comedy by Becky Mode, directed by David Saint, and starring Maulik Pancholy, award-winning actor, author and activist known for his roles on 30 Rock and hit series, Weeds, takes viewers into the world they hunger for-the Manhattan restaurant scene, as experienced by an overworked reservationist, and the demanding clientele that seeks a coveted table. The play's 40-plus characters are played with superb versatility by Pancholy and presented in what he calls, "a real hybrid of theater and film." Grab take-out or make your own meal, and stream the comedy anytime between now and April 11.

Pancholy, who is best known for playing Jonathan on NBC's critically acclaimed 30 Rock, Sanjay on Showtime's Weeds, and Neal on NBC's Whitney, said the play is not only a look at life before the pandemic slowed a booming restaurant scene but a reminder of how to enter back into it with humanity.

The central character, Sam, an out-of-work-actor longing to spend the holidays with his family, is treated badly by restaurant patrons. While the play is an opportunity to make people laugh, it's also a way to "remind them about the people who keep this city running and really humanize these people."

Preparing to play more than 40 characters and single-handedly carry a 90-page script was a feat, Pancholy said. His understanding of the nuances of the restaurant scene came readily, however. His husband, Ryan Corvaia, is the founder and CEO of Dish Food and Events, a New York City based catering company. He'd heard stories about the stress and high-stakes behind the scenes, and knew a lot about the under-appreciated complexity of the people behind glamorous food and events.

Last season, George Street Playhouse moved to the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center in downtown New Brunswick, with two state-of-the-art theatres -- The Arthur Laurents Theater with 253 seats and The Elizabeth Ross Johnson Theater which seats 465. FULLY COMMITTED, however, was rehearsed and filmed in the basement of a large house, a decision director David Saint made to replicate the setting-the basement of a restaurant-of the play. Covid-protocols were strict with regular testing and quarantine and a limited number of people in the rehearsal space. But the largest challenge was knowing how to play the comedy of a play when there was no live audience to respond, Pancholy said. For that, he said, he relied on the television experience.

The industry has changed since he first moved to LA in the late 90's, he said. Auditions then were typically something like, "You're a foreign exchange student. And can you bring your own turban to the audition?" He has also advanced new narratives, bringing the story of a gay Indian boy to readers in his critically acclaimed debut novel, The Best at It (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins), and in his advocacy for the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) and LGBTQIA+ communities. Serving on President Obama's Advisory Commission on AAPIs, he helped launch the anti-bullying campaign ActToChange.org, a national nonprofit he now chairs that is dedicated to ending bullying for AAPI youth and fostering a world where all young people can celebrate their differences.

As for the current climate of violence against the AAPI community, Pancholy said that recent events have been difficult. But awareness is growing.

He has seen, "a real movement outside the community to finally have a wake-up call. We have to stop Asian hate and it's a real thing in this country. I'm hoping this will lead to legislation and real support with grassroots organizations."

He said his most important role as a story-teller and author is to help build empathy, to help an audience see his characters and relate to them "as human beings."

As for the play, Pancholy said director David Saint helped drive the play's question, asking us to consider what we can let go of and to what are we "fully committed."

FULLY COMMITTED written by Becky Mode and directed by David Saint, stars Maulik Pancholy is streaming through April 11. Tickets are available for $33 per household at GeorgeStreetPlayhouse.org

The design team includes: Cinematographer / Editor (Michael Boylan), Production Stage Manager (Brandon Allman-Jackson), Sound Designer/Original Music (Scott Killian), Art Director (Helen Tewksbury) and Casting by McCorkle Casting, Ltd.
Sharon Karmazin is Executive Producer.

Fully Committed is sponsored by The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation and Philip Kirstein and Melinda Raso Kirstein.

George Street Playhouse thanks the Jon Ben Snow Memorial Trust for their support of our streaming platform.

Photo credit: Courtesy of George Street Playhouse.


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