In many ways, it’s a refreshing change to see a Fringe play which doesn’t try to be too clever, or too dark. There’s no tortured examination of the human condition; no sense that only bleakness wins the day. Just a would-be actor, a top Manhattan restaurant and an endless parade of ringing phones.
Actually, ignore the lie in the first paragraph. This IS an examination of the human condition, just one that wears such themes very lightly. Sam, the put-upon booking boy, holds the fort of said exclusive restaurant, as he is harangued, sworn at, hung up on and messed around, by colleagues and would-be customers alike. It takes a while to settle down – the set-up feels contrived to begin with, and the humour starts off rather patchy. But as layers of build-up begin to pay off, and the laughs come thicker and faster, we hurtle towards a highly satisfying conclusion.
Much of the congratulation must go to Marcus Brigstocke, who has the unenviable task of bringing 40+ unseen characters to life. Some are more parodied than others – there’s one customer who tips over from an enjoyable send-up into racist overtones – but overall, Brigstocke pulls off the task of making it seem as though the whole of moneyed New York is the other side of his headset. The characters – the aggressive head chef, the shrieking Mrs Sebald and the resigned maître d‘, to name a minuscule selection – linger in the mind, long after the final bow.