Arts & Events

‘Full Monty’ at Masquers Playhouse

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday June 05, 2008 - 10:16:00 AM

Back in the late ’60s, a rather buff hardhat was introduced on a variety show on TV to sing a song. Expecting an amateur rendition, the audience ended up gaping at a cocky, tossed off “I Gotta Be Me,” rapidly escalating into a full-scale production number of a striptease, hardhat coming off to reveal a cascade of hair, jumpsuit coyly shed to expose the thorax of a workout instructor ... 

It was comedian Bob Einstein on The Smothers Brothers Show, a satiric specialist of in-character put-ons (Highway Patrol Officer Judy singing “People” for another Smothers Brothers date, and quite a few screwy stealth routines with Steve Allen)—and that memory flashed back as a harbinger of a similar kind of suggestively sideways fun to be had at the Masquers’ production of The Full Monty at their Playhouse in Point Richmond. 

In this musical stage version of the Brit movie set in Sheffield, playwright Terrence McNally (who wrote the book; music and lyrics by David Yazbek) resets the scene pretty seamlessly in Buffalo—on the streets, in a union hall, a ballroom dance studio, backstage (and onstage) in a nightclub, as a half-dozen laid-off working stiffs decide to doff it all for friends, family and the world. They want to show a little spirit besides a lot of flesh and to come up with a nest egg, both to offset the ravages—psychic and pecuniary—of their unemployment. 

The impetus is actually two-fold: out-of-work buddies Jerry and Dave (Todd Carver and Tucker Matthews) end up crashing the backstage of the local club where wives and girlfriends of the laid-off, abandoned by their in-the-dumps mates, are flocking to cheer on Chippendales-type male strippers, paying a pretty penny for the view. The guys can’t figure what they get out of it. 

“What have they got that we don’t?” the blue collar boys complain at the box office. “Just about everything,” the women enthuse. “Out of our way!” 

Once in the mostly-gay (yet tough, as our would-be he-men find out) male dancers’ dressing room, the guys are surprised by an onslaught of the local females, led by Dave’s wife Georgie (lusty Sara Breindel), into “the inner sanctum of the America Male—this is a hostile takeover!” Flushed out of the men’s room, the men run into a standoff. Later, Jerry, whose divorced wife Pam (Steph Peek) is pressuring him for son Nathan’s (Lucas Masch) back child support, brainstorms the semi-therapeutic striptease mission, in great part to come up with his nut and keep his son. 

Jerry and Dave link up with a few other unlikely exhibitionists—suicidal mama’s boy Malcolm (Kyle Johnson), knee-capped older black man “Horse” Simmonds (a very funny Wendell Wilson) and a specially endowed Ethan (Greg Milholland). 

“Lord,” intones Horse, “I want to thank you for taking this burden from me and giving it to the poor white boy!” 

Dragooning former foreman Harold (Chaz Simonds) away from his wife Vicki (a marvelously multi-talented Lisa Lindsley), from whose seemingly consumeristic mind he’s kept the fact of his layoff hidden, as their dance instructor, the former steel workers, newly-dubbed ‘Hot Metal,’ try to get their act together, with the help of an old trouper at the keyboards (and with the reefer), bawdy Jeanette (hilarious Anna Albanese), only beginning to cut it as a chorus line when they loosen up, imitating their sports heroes on the court (“Michael Jordan’s Ball”).  

“Take a deep breath, smell the fear—nothing like the first day of rehearsal!”—from Jeanette’s opening pitch right up to the barest of endings, it’s a journey of self (or, in Malcolm and Ethan’s case, mutual) discovery, a composite burlesque (or burlesk)-buddy adventure-male bonding epic-rejuvenated love story-father and son tale, with clever lyrics to catchy tunes, leading up to the climax, “Let It Go,” when the men of ‘Hot Metal’ shed their cop drag, followed by their white skivvies, down to flaming red thongs—and then ... 



8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays through July 5 at Masquers Playhouse, 105 Park Place, Point Richmond. $20. 232-4031.