Nathan Keepers is 'Fully Committed' at the Jungle

Eight years ago, a 22-year-old Nathan Keepers auditioned for a play at the Jungle Theater that he'd never even heard of. The one-man tour de force turned it into a hit, and now he is back for another run of Fully Committed. In Becky Mode's play Keepers plays Sam, an out-of-work actor who mans the reservation line at Manhattan's hottest eatery. Along the way, the actor also plays 40 more of the characters that populate the staff and consumers of the restaurant.

"The biggest change is that I'm a little older and have a little more experience under my belt this time around," Keepers says about the new production, which has its opening Friday evening. [jump]

"I feel like I have more control over the material. I've been able to settle in more comfortably, which makes it much more relaxed. Being relaxed is the key to it. If I'm too tense and racing through, it doesn't exist. The audience should never feel like that I'm--as Nathan--am losing control. The character Sam should be losing control, but not me. It's a tricky balance."

Keepers, who worked with director Casey Stangl on the production, hasn't been idle since the first run. He spent 11 seasons with the late Theatre de la Jeune Lune, has appeared at the Guthrie and on other stages across the country, and returned to the Jungle in the titular The Swan. This means he  has enough experience to know the challenges of keeping a production fresh night after night, and the prior experience in the piece to know that there are singular hurdles as well.

"For any production, the key is surprising yourself. You have to remember that it is a new audience every night. We as actors have to remember to forget, and always be open to the unknown, which is the beauty of the theater," he says.

Acting alone changes the dynamic, of course. Without other performers, the solo actor has to rely on the show and the energy from the audience. "You are alone. It takes a great deal of concentration, which can be exhausting. In my case, I'm lucky that I jump from character to character so quickly. It gives me opportunity to trip myself," Keepers says.


There is interaction in Fully Committed, though it isn't the kind the audience is going to see. "John  Novak, my stage manager, has his own little one-man show up in the booth because there are so many rings and buzzes throughout the show. John has to watch me closely. It's almost like a duet."

Fully Committed runs Friday, November 5 through December 19. Contact The Jungle Theater for more information.