George Street Playhouse's Streaming Season Continues with "Fully Committed" directed by David Saint and starring Maulik Pancholy
The George Street Playhouse's streaming season, off the heals of Bad Dates, is back with FULLY COMMITTED, the hit comedy written by Becky Mode and directed by David Saint.
Saint, GSP's Artistic Director and Maulik Pancholy, the award-winning actor, author and activist joined WBGO's Doug Doyle to talk about the virtual production that will be available to stream through April 11.
The hilarious one-act play features 40 diverse characters, all played by Pancholy, follows a day in the life of "Sam", an out-of-work actor who mans a red-hot reservation line at Manhattan's trendiest restaurant.
Amid the barrage of outrageous phone calls, Sam has to deal with non-stop harassment from the chef and his own personal problems.
Pancholy, best known for his roles on 30 Rock and the hit series Weeds, says he was grateful that George Street Playhouse found an innovative way to make theater during the pandemic. He had a blast filming FULLY COMMITTED in an off-location basement of a GSP board member's home.
"One of the things we worked on with this play was making every character as real as possible. I know David and I had a conversation early on where he was like don't think of a character as a voice, think of that human being and the voice will come, which I think was such brilliant direction. It allowed us, hopefully, to ground these characters. We talked about what kind of shoes they'd be wearing, how do they move on the earth, what's the room there in, what's behind them? It's a nutty play and it's so funny, but there's also beating heart underneath all of it. All the other characters who call in, you know some of them are pretty awful and have some pretty insane demands, they have needs. They're used to being treated a certain way and they don't understand why they can't get a reservation. That's kind of we really worked to find in the play to give it real depth."
Saint says he was so excited to have Pancholy portray "Sam" in the one-person play.
"The play is really like a hurricane of comedy. I mean the characters come flying in and fly out. At the center of that, the eye of the storm, is this young man who has some doubts in his life, about his relationships, about his career as an actor and particularly with his situation at home. His mother has died within this year just before Christmas. He's going home to see his father, his brother and sister and you see the father in the play. Those sequences are so moving to me and really do express the heart of the play. You need an actor with depth to be able to carry that off."
Beginning with the 2019-20 season, George Street Playhouse moved to the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center in downtown New Brunswick. The COVID-19 pandemic prompted to theater to temporarily close last season. Saint says he can't wait for audiences to return.
"It's waiting there for us. Obviously the safety of our audiences are our prime concern, so we will only go back when it's safe. But when we do, hopefully next Fall, I think every show we do will probably get a standing ovation before the curtain even goes up. I've talked with so many of our patrons and our subscribers and they all long for that connection to the arts and to theater in particular."
A longtime advocate for the Asian American and Pacific Islander and LGBTQIA+ communities, Pancholy was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the President's Advisory Commission on AAPIs. As a Commissioner, he helped launch the anti-bullying campaign ActToChange.org, an organization which he continues to chair today.
"Even those there's so many horrific things that are happening. For many years now we've seen a lot of racism and xenophobia, Othering and division brewing. And certainly, a lot of that has come to head in the last year. I feel like the pandemic has certainly escalated the violence against the Asian American community. I think what happened with George Floyd and so many other Black Americans, but the movement that it inspired this past summer has been a real call to action. Finally we are talking about this in a very unique and specific way. So many corporations are signing on to making commitments against hate. Individuals across all communities are signing on. Hopefully some good comes out of this moment."
Pancholy's debut novel, The Best at It, has receiving numerous awards including being named a 2020 Stonewall Honor Book, a New York Times "Best Audiobooks for Road Trips with Kids" selection and several others. The novel is a heartfelt middle grade debut about a gay Indian American boy coming into his own.
"What's been so gratifying is the number of adults who write me messages and say how much it meant to them because they saw themselves in the book even though it's through the eyes of a 12-year old kid."
On Broadway, Pancholy starred in Bess Wohl's Grand Horizons and Terrence McNally's It's Only A Play.
In addition to catching the streaming of FULLY COMMITTED, Pancholy can also be seen in the upcoming Hulu series Only Murders in the Building (with Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez), The Good Fight, The Good Wife, Phineas and Ferb and Web Therapy.
You can see the zoom chat at https://fb.watch/4DC994Jc4I/.
Tickets for FULLY COMMITTED are available per household at www.georgestreetplayhouse.org.