It was more difficult than it should have been to get in, but once there it was worth every effort to see the brilliant Max Tachis in a livestream of an actual play from Los Altos Stage Company.
Tachis is astounding in Becky Mode's funny commentary on arrogant abuse of privilege and elitism, "Fully Committed," giving voices and actions to 40 different characters.
The 1999 play is written against the backdrop of celebrity dining in pretentious Manhattan restaurants, with one-percenters calling elite eateries and threatening, cajoling and whining to people like Sam, who handles reservations for such an establishment.
Sam is the central character in what becomes a hurricane of phone calls — two outside-line phones, Sam's personal cell phone, the celebrity chef's direct line, and a wall-mounted intercom connecting to the maitre d', the kitchen's head cook and various other employees.
Not for nothing is Tachis one of the San Francisco Bay Area's best physical-comedy performers. Director Roneet Aliza Rahamim (Tachis's wife) pushes him through a grueling, high-velocity pace that has him bouncing from one side of the set to the other to answer the phones, placate the chef, or beg the maître d' to accept another reservation.
Tachis not only takes the calls — he acts out whoever is on the other end of the line, from Carol Ann Rosenstein, who is screamingly livid because she had to wait two minutes on hold; to the maître d', who won't take Rosenstein's call "because she is ugly!"; to the unctuous Bryce, who is calling to ensure the vegan menu and the barring of female wait staff for Gwyneth Paltrow's table; to his sweet father, who doesn't want to ask too much of his son; to his brother Steve, who wants him to come home for the first family Christmas since their mother died; to the egocentric chef who won't give him Christmas off; and many others.
Every one of these voices has its own accent and inflections, and each is briefly presented physically by Tachis, with character changes happening less than a second apart.
Really, a thrilling evening in the theater, even if only over a computer monitor. And well worth the $20 price of admission.
Finally the 75-minute show began, showing a nicely designed basement stage, overly filled with annoying loud ringing telephones.
Tachis enters, and answers: "Good morning, reservations, could you hold, please?" He often has to refuse callers, saying "We are fully committed for that weekend." (He's not allowed to say "fully booked.")
It's the beginning of a long, hard day for the reservations clerk, who has been abandoned by his co-worker, Bob, is heart-broken because his lover had left him, is desperate to hear if he has been cast as Malvolio at Lincoln Center, hates his job, and has to make a decision about seeing his family.
It's a lot.
But once the tech problems were resolved, Tachis' very human and excellent performance makes it feel like we are in a theater with him, marveling at what he does.
There are three more performances scheduled (Dec. 18 and 19 at 7 p.m.; Dec. 20 at 2 p.m.). Don't miss this fine show. More information is available at losaltosstage.org.
Freelance writer John Orr can be emailed at [email protected].