Ash Mercia will have to put on 33 costume pieces to portray as many roles in the next Central Alberta Theatre play, Fully Committed, directed by Tanya Ryga. (Contributed photo by David Dinan).

One actor tackles 33 zany characters in CAT’s social satire, Fully Committed

Ash Mercia is taking on an actor’s biggest challenge

A parade of trendy people who hope to connive their way into a must-have window seat at New York’s hottest restaurant are featured in Central Alberta Theatre’s next play, Fully Committed.

One actor — Red Deer’s Ash Mercia — is taking on all 33 roles in this scathing social satire by Becky Mode.

The one-woman play pokes fun at the foodie (no thank you, I’m going gluten-free) culture, as well as the one-per-cent ultra-rich, and all the upwardly mobile wannabes, says director Tanya Ryga.

Among the bizarre-o characters Mercia will portray are Gwyneth Paltrow’s manipulative assistant, the egotistical chef-from-hell, and a clueless socialite named Carolann Rosenstein-Fishburn, who regularly calls to harass restaurant staff and share her unwanted opinions.

Mercia’s core role will be out-of-work actor Samantha when Fully Committed opens Friday, March 13, at the Nickle Studio (upstairs at the Memorial Centre).

It’s Sam’s job to take reservations at one of Manhattan’s hottest dining temples. This means shooing-away the many, many people who didn’t think three months ahead to make a reservation and are out of luck.

Sam’s perpetual problem is that none of these self-important people want to take “no” for an answer, says Ryga.

They routinely attempt various ploys to wheedle a table reservation out of Sam— including lying, cheating, bullying and manipulating.

Ryga admits she’s wanted to stage this hilarious romp of a play for a decade, but only recently found a local actor she felt was up to its marathon requirements.

“It wasn’t until I watched Ash Mercia transform so completely on stage in shows at Red Deer College, in Bullskit Comedy, Butt Ugly and Bard on Bower, that I knew I’d found an actor more than capable of embodying the 33-plus characters,” says Ryga.

Mercia’s massive challenge has been creating nearly three dozen distinctive people, instantly switching in and out of these roles — and knowing there’s no one else on stage to rely on for help.

“It would be easy to see this as Ash’s show — she’s phenomenal,” says Ryga.

But the retired RDC theatre instructor is also thrilled to have a lot of technical talent on board — notably sound person Dan Metzger, who creates the non-stop rings, beeps and buzzes of land lines, cellphones and intercoms.

Ryga believes the central Albertan audiences will get a kick out of the wickedly funny script, and all the wacky characters that long-suffering Sam has to deal with.

You don’t have to live in New York, or eat at elite restaurants to find this play relatable, says Ryga.

“People will say, ‘Oh, yes! I totally know somebody like that!’ ” she predicts.

Fully Committed runs to March 28. Tickets are available from the Black Knight Ticket Centre or from

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