There is a moment in Becky Mode’s Fully Committed when Brian Fidler’s character, Sam, gives his father some disappointing news over the telephone.
The entire audience tenses up.
It was only one of many wonderful dialogues, so it cannot be considered a “magical moment”, but it was certainly a moment when the magic of this play was revealed.
Fidler had grabbed the audience very early in this play, slung us on his back and took us on a roller coaster ride. We went up. We went down. We hoped, for Sam’s sake, this ride would end at the top of that roller coaster.
And yet nobody dies in this play and nobody goes bankrupt … it is just 37 characters making their way through status-conscience New York City in the best way they know how.
Full disclosure here: I am a big fan of Brian Fidler. His is a rare talent that mixes poignancy with high artistic flair and the all-important likeability factor.
He is the only person in Whitehorse who could have pulled off playing 37 characters in Becky Mode’s Fully Committed.
Mark McKinney, of Kids In The Hall fame, performed this play in Vancouver. He, too, is a brilliant comedic actor.
Let’s just say, it is an exclusive club and the Yukon is lucky to have Fidler.
Even so, the audience knew it was about to see a high-wire act at the Guild Hall as Fidler performed 37 characters in 90 minutes.
And, just as high-wire acts have gone extreme by requiring the performers to juggle and carry showgirls in chairs balanced on their chins, Fidler’s performance became extreme as he performed these 37 characters with frantic energy.
Rushing from phone to intercom to the direct line to Chef, Fidler’s characters abruptly reveal themselves to be arrogant or flighty or folksy.
It is here that Fidler’s skills as an actor far outstripped his ability to “do funny voices”.
With no costume for each of these roles (except, of course, for Sam), and no background information, Fidler nevertheless conveys a rich characterization for each … immediately.
This is where the aforementioned “magic” washes over the audience.
We witnessed something, together, that Yukoners will be discussing for years to come.
But Fidler was not alone on stage. Unseen, but certainly felt, was Kim Hawkins. The stage manager’s abilities to cue sound effects to keep “Sam” jumping required superhuman reflexes and concentration.
And Dean Eyre was not seen on stage, either, but his set certainly was. He transformed the back of the Guild’s theatre into a dank basement with attention to detail that ranged from the obvious – Village Voice newspaper and shopping bags from New York iconic stores – to the more subtle: a desk with stickers only mostly removed.
It is difficult to say if Eyre decided to heighten the sense of detail on this set for the benefit of the audience, which sits very close to the stage, or to help Fidler imagine his characters.
If there is a weak link in this production, it would have to be Becky Mode’s script. It is not sophisticated stuff, relying too heavily on the actor breathe life into it. Some conflicts were a little too forced for a play that blessedly stayed on the dignified side of slapstick, if only for the nuanced performance(s) of Fidler.
Fully Committed plays at the Guild Hall Wednesdays to Saturdays until Feb. 21, at 8 p.m.
Tickets are available at Well-Read Books and at the door if any are still available … which seems unlikely because Yukon audiences support great theatre.
And this is great theatre.
Brian Fidler exhausts the audience with his frantic and nuanced performance of 37 characters in Becky Mode’s “Fully Committed”. It plays Wednesdays to Saturdays until Feb. 21.