The Full Monty, Music and Lyrics by David Yazbek, Book by Terrance McNally. Directed by Michael C. Mensching.
Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman
Chaz Rose, Sky Vogel, Steven Cardona, Andy Hasell, Edward Tolve and Brian Sheldon; photo supplied
"Do something youíre proud of."
Six men in need of restoring their personal pride, both pride of place and of self, agree to work together as a performance team and do the "full monty" - meaning strip to the fullest extent possible - in front of a bunch of women. This act will restore their pride. They have all been out of work for six months or more, unable to support their families. They have all found the bare opportunities open to them to be unsatisfying, impossible to bear. They have grown wary of too much honesty and of too little anticipated supports. Three of them underestimate their wives.
They come together to share laughter, music, dancing and group stripping and somehow this bonding of male egos and superegos has the desired effect on everyone, although for a while it appears that even the man whose idea it is to move this action forward might balk and louse it up for everyone. Along the way, as noted, three of the men discover the true mettle of their wives, or ex-wives.Two of them men find love and companionship. One renews his bond with his son who is about to reach the teenage years. One embraces his age and racial differences and comes out a first-class human with a five-star heart. Itís a lovely outcome, and that wonít spoil anything for you if you havenít seen this show before.
One other fact: the show is set in Buffalo, New York and they talk about Albany, so donít be surprised if even the environs get mentioned. Itís in the script.
The ego with the idea is Jerry, played at the Theater Barn in New Lebanon, New York by Andy Hassell, making his debut at this theater. A nice looking man who sings passably and dances nicely, he acts his way into the role but doesnít quite act his way out of it again. There is an uneasiness in some of his playing but when his emotions get caught in the action, itís a fine performance. His act two song, "Breeze Off the River" was a delicious moment.
Brian Sheldon, another debut actor here, does very well with the role of Dave, Jerryís best friend. His scenes with his wife Georgie, played sweetly and with heft by Alison Rose Munn, are all wonderful, each one so very different. Harold, the out-of-work "boss" is played by an aggressive if vocally weak Sky Vogel. Amy Fiebke does wonderful work as Haroldís wife Vicki.
Horse is played by Chaz Rose. Itís a terrific performance from beginning to end. Ethan, who could out-horse Horse, is played with charm and grace by Steven Cardona and his newfound friend Malcolm was given a delectable interpretation by Edward Tolve. Nathan, Jerryís son, is played very cleanly and clearly by Zack Marshall.
Jerielle Morwitz is Pam, the estranged wife and she give the role, remarkably small in comparison to the other wives, a fine performance. Courtney Nolan Smith as Estelle, Pamís ex-husbandís occasional girlfriend, is just right. Trey Compton is funny as Teddy, Pamís new squeeze. Jeanette, the hard-drinking, ever-smoking accompanist is played to the obvious hilt by Carol Charniga who can make the smallest roles into the featured players finest.
The costumes help make this show as much fun as it is and they are the work of Michelle Bohn. Abe Phelps usual great sets seemed a bit heavy this time around and the changes slowed down the action somewhat. Allen E. Phelps lighting design worked wonderfully, punching emotions as well as defining spaces and times of day. He has a flair for musical lighting and the fact that his changes donít make you look up to see whatís changed or changing is a tribute to the way in which he has brought this show to visual life.
Other than the set which muffled the band and clunked itself into place all the time, this is a very good evening of theater, bound to please almost everyone for some element or another. Michael C. Menschingís excellent direction keeps the show focused on the principal issues and make the show a light, bright and airy thing rather than a more solemn look at how men fight depression during their own recession. If I had more than two thumbs they would all be pointing upward signifying success and near triumph for the Theater Barnís closing show of the summer season.
The Full Monty plays weekends through September 5 at 654 Route 20, New Lebanon, NY. For information and tickets call the box office at 518-794-8989.