By Ally Fedorka
Villanova Student Theatre partnered with the Office of Music Activities to put on an entertaining and quirky spring show, a comedy titled “Fully Committed” written by Becky Mode.
The play was directed by freshman Janey Van de Weghe who is actively involved in VST and was extremely excited to showcase what she calls “an excess of talent whirling about in this production.”
While she was introduced to directing in high school by an acting teacher and worked as stage manager for VST’s “Twelve Angry Men,” “Fully Committed” was the first play that she directed on her own.
The play was performed in St. Mary’s auditorium from April 18-21. I attended on Friday evening at 8 p.m., and despite the fire drill shortly before the start time which Van De Weghe said “threw off” her actors, the performance was wonderful and very amusing.
In her director’s note, Van de Weghe writes, “Successful comedy is achievable through two avenues: one, with elaborate sets, props, costumes, and scene changes to engage the audience in the chaos of the characters’ realities or two, with simple scenes that depend on the actors’ abilities to engage the audience through their words and character choices. The second scenario is the choice I have made with this production.”
The director did a fantastic job at turning a fairly overwhelming plot and script into a hilarious show with a simple set.
“Fully Committed” was written to be a one man show, but for “the purpose of sanity,” Van de Weghe split the script among four people, Sam, the protagonist, two calling customers and a vague group of “other callers” representing restaurant employees, Sam’s friends and family and his colleagues.
While there were only four actors, the play featured over 40 characters all represented by this small group. I was hugely impressed with the actors’ abilities to switch seamlessly from one character to the next, even from gender to gender, sometimes with simple costume changes such as the addition of a scarf or hat, but usually with only a simple change of tone or accent.
I was not expecting the show to have this sort of script and I was a bit confused about what to anticipate, but I was not disappointed.
The play took the audience through an average, extremely busy and hectic day for Sam, played by sophomore Brian Jedinak.
Sam is a struggling young actor from New York working for the most exclusive restaurant in the city, answering calls and taking reservations for a plethora of callers, including characters played by freshman Ryan Acito, sophomore Ciara Sprance and sophomore Gabby Bettaglio.
Jedinak was very believable as Sam, a character who is conflicted between standing up for himself and listening to his insanely controlling boss along with the rest of the restaurant staff.
This was only his second show with VST, but he definitely understood how to interact with the other actors on stage while also staying true to his own character.
Sprance portrayed a wide range of characters, from Sam’s father, to the crazy chef, to a secretary from Sam’s acting agency. She never once faltered in her ability to accurately portray every role. She was hilarious and her confidence shined through on stage.
I was surprised to learn that “Fully Committed” was Bettaglio’s first full show with VST because she was also fantastic. Her acting was eccentric and she was a perfect fit for all the roles she played.
Although all of the characters made the audience laugh out loud, Acito achieved this reaction the most. This was his first play at the University and he is relatively new to theater, but these facts were not evident in this production. He really brought all of his roles to life. I truly felt that I knew all of his characters by the end of the show.
Though the play appeared flawless and the actors seemed to be having no trouble at all, exuding an easy, improv type of vibe, Van de Weghe did face some challenges as a director, stating that the most challenging aspects were the time constraint and the “loss of momentum” after Easter break. The script also presented some difficulties.
“This show was very text-heavy which put a lot of weight on the actors’ abilities to memorize the scripts and get their characters all sorted out which, as you witnessed, was really challenging,” Van de Weghe said.
“But I’m so proud of them for getting it all together.”
In regards to the most rewarding aspects of the show, Van de Weghe was extremely happy to see it all come together and was pleased with the results.
“Sitting in the audience and watching my actors, who have become some of my closest friends, bring this wonderfully chaotic script to life was really powerful,” she said. “The Saturday evening show was probably the best one and I actually got chills watching them display their extensive talent to the audience. It was such a pleasure working with everyone involved.”
Van de Weghe’s passion for the show and the cast members and her appreciation for the crew were very clear.
“Fully Committed” featured a new director and many new actors and this alone definitely makes it praise-worthy.
Though, if not for the program, I never would have known of this inexperience. The play was hilarious and different.
I am glad that I had the chance to attend this show and am “fully committed” to attending more VST productions.