Arts & Culture » Stage

Phones Are Ringing

Willmorth wows Boise Contemporary Theater audiences


The definition of "tour de force": Tom Wilmorth's performance as Sam Peliczowski in Fully Committed, a one-man show at the Boise Contemporary Theater. There are just four chances left to see this remarkable production, which will unexpectedly warm your heart as it delights your mind and tickles your funny bone.

Sam is one of the reservation clerks for a ritzy New York restaurant. He is also an aspiring actor, hitting all the auditions and hoping for the one call that will change his life. When we meet Sam, he is heading into one of the most difficult workdays of his career. It is nearing Christmas, a busy time in the restaurant world, and none of his co-workers show up. The phones are already ringing, he answers the first call, and away we go.

During the first one or two calls you might think he is mocking the caller, but then you realize he is the caller, and in the course of the play, he creates about 40 different characters, ranging from friends, his dad, very important people, angry customers, the sadistic chef, the snippy maitre d' and assorted other clientele, all demanding something from him. Some wheedle, some rage, and there is even an 84-year-old woman in a wheelchair complaining because she didn't get a double AARP discount.

Willmorth brilliantly portrays each character's vocal and body language differences, so that gradually you recognize them almost before they speak. His facial contortions and accents keep the one-person play lively and fascinating, but he never loses control of the basic character of Sam, who is a very nice guy, dealing with his own problems and trying his best to keep the customers happy. His mischievous grin, when he forwards a difficult caller to the unpleasant chef, is a delight, and his gentle voice when he tells his recently bereaved dad that he can't get home for Christmas almost makes you cry.

For almost 20 years, Willmorth has been an impressively daffy character on the local theatre scene, performing as a mime, acting in Idaho Shakespeare Festival plays and with Joe Conley Golden as the Fool Squad, in their Greenshows held before Shakespeare Festival main productions. The two recently teamed up in Waiting for Godot and again for Fully Committed (which is restaurant talk for "Sold out--completely booked--don't ask") with Golden serving as director.

The two men have long been a great duo, and in this production, they don't miss a trick. The pacing is manic, the laughs non-stop and Willmorth leaves the audience with warm smiles for the Christmas season.

The setting by Scenic Designer/Technical Director Michael Hartwell is a blast. Far from a plush office, the reservation "controllers" work in an incredibly messy basement storage room, with barrels, papers and boxes piled to the sky. They slave away in this windowless world, their only contact with reality the often disagreeable disembodied voices that bedevil them.

The author of the play, Becky Mode, actually had this reservations clerk job in New York City as a struggling actress, so she knows the anguish, power plays, scheming and humor involved in its daily grind.

Half of the joy of Fully Committed is the good feeling you get when the worm (Sam) begins to turn and gradually extracts revenge for his treatment. Willmorth manages to accomplish this in a charming, clever and likable manner, and by the end the audience is cheering and giving him a standing ovation.

Fully Committed by Becky Mode

Boise Contemporary Theater at Fulton Street Theater, 854 Fulton St.

8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; 2 p.m. matinee Saturday

Tickets $20 Thursday and matinee; $25 Friday and Saturday

Reservations: 442-3232