Murphey, party of 40 

Juggling roles in Fully Committed

In the one-actor play Fully Committed, presented at Theatre in the Square's Alley Stage, performer Bill Murphey can be likened to a master chef serving a 40-course meal, with each dish a different character. Becky Mode's script depicts a struggling actor named Sam, alone in a dingy downstairs office, manning the reservation line of a swank, four-star Manhattan restaurant.

Via the reservation line, the internal intercom and the "red phone" to the tyrannical celebrity chef-owner, Sam talks to dozens of people, with Murphey taking their guises as well. In addition to the cooks and waiters on the staff, he portrays demanding customers from Naomi Campbell's fey personal assistant to a harpy called "Mrs. Seabag," from uncomprehending foreigners to an enigmatic fellow hilariously reminiscent of a James Bond villain. And between calls, Sam checks his own messages, pesters his agent and tries to negotiate a Christmas trip home to his widowed father.

Watching Fully Committed (the chef's euphemism for "booked up"), you believe that the only job more complicated than Sam's is Murphey's. In the 80-minute show the actor makes nearly instantaneous switches between roles, interrupting himself and juggling a dizzying array of names, gestures and intonations. The play frequently moves at a rapid clip, but to the credit of both director Alan Kilpatrick and the actor, Murphey doesn't race his lines, but lets each voice set its own pace, some frantic, some leisurely. The play flags a little after the first hour -- perhaps the novelty of the premise wears off a bit, or exhaustion understandably sets in -- but it's charming to see Sam struggle against the system and prevail.

Good plays routinely instill such feelings as joy, fear and sorrow, but Fully Committed proves unusually successful at evoking the sheer stress of the workplace -- if you've just had one of those days glued to the phone, you might not want to commit to seeing the show. But Murphey's multi-faceted, virtuoso performance is highly recommended -- without reservation.

Fully Committed plays through Oct. 7 at Theatre in the Square's Alley Stage, 11 Whitlock Ave., Marietta, with performances at 8 p.m. Tues.-Sat. and 2:30 and 7 p.m. Sun. $10-15. 770-422-8369. www.theatreinthesquare.com.

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