Playing On Restaurant Biz

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - November 08, 2006
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Greg Howell’s ‘Fully Committed’ opens Nov. 13 at Manoa Valley Theatre
Greg Howell’s ‘Fully Committed’ opens
Nov. 13 at Manoa Valley Theatre

If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, tried to get a dinner reservation at one of the nation’s top eateries or have just always wanted one of those great tables with a view, then make sure to catch Greg Howell’s one-man show, Fully Committed, playing at Manoa Valley Theatre from Nov. 13 to Dec. 3.

I met with Howell the other morning for coffee to chat about the characters in the play. At first I thought I’d misread the press release, and was about to congratulate him on the tremendous feat of developing 14 characters. “Actually there are 40 characters,” he replied with a grin. The drama takes place at a top Manhattan restaurant, where diners plead, whine and lie to get a reservation at the trendiest place in town, and where the protagonist, Sam, spends most of his day on the phone juggling the needs and personalities of a cast of richly developed characters. There’s the very sweet Mrs. Timothy Winslow from Wisconsin, who “would just love to come eat with y’all,” an unbearably snotty maitre d’, and the super-excitable Bryce, assistant to Naomi Campbell, who just has to have a no-fat, no-meat, no-sodium tasting menu for 14 people on Saturday night with no female servers, thanks a trillion!

So how do you go about creating 40 different people, convincing enough to mesmerize an audience?

“I started by building a photographic board of people I’ve met, people I know, and I just took it from there,” Howell says of his delightful dramatic feat. The transition between characters is so fast that you are at times left breathless by Howell’s ability to memorize lines (there are 45 pages of them) and carry off the almost magical act of switching from celebrity chef to out-of-control personal assistant, to egomaniacal food critic - all hungry for a taste of the talk of the town. If you eat out, work in the industry or just appreciate the art of great theater, Fully Committed should have you laughing out loud.

“I think the attraction of the play for both the actor and the audience is that it’s real,” says Howell. “You know these people, you can identify with them. Well some of them, at least.”

For Howell the Manoa Valley Theatre production trip is like visiting with old friends. He played Sam in 2002, alternating the role with local actor and director Andrew Meader. “I’m having so much fun playing these characters again, and working with (director) Betty Burdick to make these very neat transformations is just great.” Howell has paid his dues in the restaurant business. While going to drama school in New York he worked as a waiter, a reservationist and a greeter, “I know these people,” he says. “I’ve met almost all of them!”

Theatergoers may enjoy an added bonus by presenting their theater tickets to a number of local restaurants that have signed on to help promote the show. Participating restaurants include Auntie Pasto’s, Macaroni Grill, Sam Choy’s, Spices, Compadres, Big City Diner, Sweet Basil and 3660 On the Rise.

And how is Howell coping with his day job while living with the 40 different temporary visitors in his life?

“I see a lot of clients every day at Paul Brown Salon,” he says, “and I think right now some of them are enjoying coming to the salon because they’re not sure which characters they’re going to meet!”

Fully Committed showtimes are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. Tickets are $25. A $5 discount is available for seniors and military; patrons age 25 and under are admitted for $15. Call 988-6131 or purchase online at

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