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For the week of  October 3 - 9, 2001

  Arts & Entertainment

Tour de force comedy comes to Ketchum via Cincinnati

Express Staff Writer

It’s the rare aspiring actor in any city in the world that hasn’t waited on tables while taking endless acting classes that claim to improve elocution, movement, or dance.

Robert Rais in "Fully Committed," playing this weekend at the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum.

This life is fully and hilariously evoked in "Fully Committed" by Becky Mode, and directed by Lynn Meyers, from the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati. The play is the debut performance presented by the Sun Valley Performing Arts Center. Based on the hit version at the ETC, which closed just last week, the play will be here for only three performances, Oct. 5 to 7 at the nexStage Theater in Ketchum.

"Just plan on an hour and a half of laughter," Meyers said.

Cincinnati actor Robert B. Rais, now in his eleventh season at Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, incredibly plays all 36 characters in the show, including the pivotal role of Sam, the reservations operator at a tony New York eatery.

Among those trying to find a spot at the restaurant some are famous—some are rude, some are simply aggressive, but all are hungry to see and be seen.

Other than Sam. all the characters appear via phone calls on the reservation line or through the intercom from upstairs in the restaurant itself. There’s the foreign dignitary, the supermodel’s assistant, the hissy-fit throwing socialite who will stop at nothing to book a table, there’s Mrs. Vandeveer, old money Park Avenue matron and the nouveau riche social x-ray.

There’s the high-strung maitre d’, the irascible chef and Sam’s lonely and recently widowed dad, all vying for Sam’s time.

"As an actor it’s an artistic experiment to mount it somewhere else."

Rais was recently Gabe in the ETC production of "Dinner With Friends" and received Cincinnati Entertainment Award Best Actor nominations for his roles in "Private Eyes" and "Keeping The Faith." Other credits include "The Compleat Wrks. of Wm. Shakespre (Abridged)," "A Midsummer Night’s Dream," and "The Tempest" with Theatreworks Shakespeare Festival, "Greater Tuna" with Flagstaff Festival of the Arts and "A Christmas Carol" with Tennessee Repertory Theatre.

"I’ve worked in my share of restaurants, too," he commented "I worked at a four-star restaurant here, the Palace, so I’ve met most of these characters over my time there—I did the schmoozing thing."

So has "Fully Committed" playwright Mode, a former actress, waitress and coat check girl. In fact, the play was created by her after a stint at Bouley, one of New York’s finer and most exclusive dinning spots. Theater critic Peter Marks, of the New York Times, wrote, "Rarely has a playwright pegged so entertainingly the insecurity at the heart of the New York sense of entitlement."

In a time when New York City is on the mind of everyone, people are applauding New York’s often odd sensibilities.

In that vein, Jon Kane of Interplanetary Theatre Group, who has enabled the play to be produced here, and Mary Mott of The Sun Valley Performing Arts Center are turning the lobby of nexStage into a mini "Tavern on the Green," for a benefit party.

"Tavern" is a landmark restaurant in New York, on Central Park West and the edge of the park itself. It’s a restaurant that is not unlike the place where Sam, of the play, might be working.

Opening night will be a special "tribute to New York and New Yorkers," said Kane. A portion of the proceeds will go the New York Firefighters Widows’ and Children’s Fund. Refreshments and hors d’oeurves will be served, and pianist Alan Pennay will serenade the pre-theater crowd from 7 to 8 p.m. After the show, there will be deserts including New York style cheesecake. Tickets for the benefit show are $50, for the other two performances they are $20. Tickets are available at Chapter One Bookstore in Ketchum or at the door.

It’s a rare visit to Ketchum by one of the top regional American theater groups. "We are a source point for many premiere works and regional new works," said Meyers, Indeed, they premiered such works as Warren Leight’s "Sideman," and his most recent "Glimmer, Glimmer Shine."

"We’re actually in the middle of opening ‘Love Child’ by Luther Goins."

Additionally, she’ll be giving a talk, Friday at 4 p.m. on regional theatre.

The curtain goes up both Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m., and on Sunday at 7 p.m.

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.