Becky Mode Updates The Menu -- But No Edible Dirt

Becky Mode couldn't wait to write about edible dirt. 

That menu affectation didn't yet exist when she wrote her 1999 comedy Fully Committed, in which a single actor plays both Sam (a harried reservations agent at a popular restaurant) and the many patrons who beg him for a table. When Mode was recently approached to revise the play for the current Broadway productionstarring Jesse Tyler Ferguson, she jumped at the chance to skewer the latest restaurant fads and pretensions. 

The new staging, which is now in previews at the Lyceum, has also allowed Mode to take another look at Sam. He was originally played by the actor Mark Setlock, who was in his early 30s at the time, but Ferguson, who is well known for his role on Modern Family, is 40. That alters the stakes for the character. 

"It gave me the opportunity to tailor the character more to who Jesse is," Mode says. "Originally Sam was a young actor waiting for his first break. With Jesse, it made more sense to create a character who had had some success and a career, but who was hitting a dry spell and was reaching that moment where he wonders, 'Should I continue the thing I love to do?'

"I really enjoyed that change in particular because you have more sympathy for somebody who is asking those questions a little further down the pike. And Jesse is just so lovable, and it plays to that." 

Meanwhile, when the show was first produced, Julia Child was still on TV, The Barefoot Contessa hadn't yet kicked off her heels for a national audience, and Top Chef winner Kristen Kish was still eating lunches at her junior high school cafeteria.