It’s a really difficult holiday season for Sam, the character at the center of Becky Mode’s one-man play Fully Committed. He’s answering the reservation line for a high-end, uber-popular New York restaurant, and the phone’s ringing off the hook with dozens of demanding clients who are calling at the last minute to book a table.
Dylan Godwin, a member of the Alley Theatre resident acting company, plays Sam ... and all 40 callers.
“As he answers the phone, he turns into each of the personalities that’s on the other end,” Godwin tells us. And the personalities are extreme. There’s Bunny Vandevere, a Park Avenue socialite whose husband invented Botox. “She lives in an ivory tower, high up on Park Avenue. You can imagine all that that entails. I’m having a lot of fun with her,” Godwin says. “Some of the characters are very witty and quick; some of them are very dry. They’re all a lot of fun.”
The callers have inflated egos and a lot of demands, all of which Sam, a wanna-be actor working a thankless day job, tries to accommodate. Callers try various—and in some instances, very imaginative—strategies to get what they want. They bully, plead, beg, bribe, intimidate, demand, and beseech. They coo at Sam. They screech. They threaten. They try guilt trips, blackmail, and scare tactics.
Along with making the callers happy, Sam’s trying to finish his shift on time so he can get home to spend the holiday with his newly widowed father.
With each caller, Sam’s story slowly unfolds. “The narrative is split up between all these different callers, so you don’t really know which way the story is going until the next caller gets on the line,” says Godwin. “Becky Mode has written an amazing script. Some scripts are about the plot, the action. This is really a character-driven script.”
Godwin makes split-second transitions between characters. Along with unique voices, the characters have unique physical characteristics. Those transitions have been a focus for director Brandon Weinbrenner and Godwin. The two have been good friends for several years, but have never worked together before Fully Committed. “We’re working on making strong physical choices, so even if you heard me say only one line or just saw how I’m standing, you would understand who the character is,” Godwin says.
This is the first one-man show Godwin will perform for a paying audience. He was the understudy for Todd Waite in Santaland Diaries for two years, but Waite never missed a show—so, beyond a closed show for Alley Theatre staff, Godwin never performed it. Still that experience gave him a good idea of what a one-man show requires of an actor—and the heavy weight put on the actor for the success of the show. "I would be lying to you if I didn’t admit that I feel that pressure,” he says. “I know I can do it, and the Alley employs one of the greatest teams in the country, so they really make you feel supported. They all believe you can do it, so you believe you can do it, too. When I have moments where I have doubts, I look across at my stage manager or my director and I know that they think I can do this. If they think I can do this and they’re really good at what they do, then I must be able to."
During the show’s run, Godwin will perform eight times a week. Fully Committed is high-energy and fast-paced—in other words, it’s exhausting. Godwin admits it’s a physical challenge. “It’s like an athlete running a marathon. You might not be able to do it on the first day, but each day you do a little more," he says. "Then one day, and hopefully that day coincides with your first preview, you can finish the entire race.”
Fully Committed could become an annual production the way Santaland Diaries and other seasonal favorites have, bringing Houstonians back to the theater for a Yuletide viewing year after year. That would be great, Godwin admits, but he says right now he’s just enjoying mounting this year’s show. “Doing this show from the ground up, it’s been really special," he says. "It’s cool to be part of the Alley’s tapestry in that way. After the flood destroyed our Neuhaus theater two years ago, we haven’t had any holiday programming in there since, and it’s wonderful to be able to bring that back to our audiences.”
Nov. 26–Dec. 29. Tickets start at $47. Alley Theatre, 615 Texas Ave. 713-220-5700. More info and tickets at alleytheatre.org.