Grin and bare it

Theatre by the Sea's rollicking The Full Monty
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  August 12, 2010

Theater_Monty-4_main
STRIPPED-DOWN FUN Guthrie, Kipper, and Ferragamo.

I don't know what the entertainment high point of your summer has been so far, but if you didn't honeymoon in island breezes or win a lottery, have I got a contender for you. The Theatre by the Sea production of The Full Monty (through August 29) is, ironically, as much fun as you can legally have with your clothes on.

With production values up to off-Broadway standards — and acting talent to match — the Matunuck theater's season finale is rattling good fun, with all-around on-the-money-casting, peppy direction by Russell Garrett, and strict attention to the heart within the hilarity. There are so many marvelously accomplished moments that this review could be filled up by simply listing them. (Consider all scenes cited below as done to delightful perfection.)

The 2000 show was based on the British film of three years before, about six long-unemployed Sheffield steelworkers who come up with a scheme to make a pile of money by putting on a strip act — the draw being their going all the way. The adaptation has music and lyrics by David Yazbek and book by Terrence McNally. The Matunuck production has music direction by Andrew Smithson, choreography by Chris Saunders, scenic design by Peter Barbieri, and costume design by Marcia Zammarelli.

The expansion into a musical doesn't overwhelm the intimate story but rather amplifies the emotional component. And the Americanization works as well, since there's nothing very nation-specific about being bummed out over being out of work. They're steelworkers here too, unemployed in Buffalo, New York for 18 months. With today's dismal unemployment situation, we feel their pain from the opening curtain.

Director Garrett starts things off with a sort of pre-show in front of the curtain. Taavon Gamble, who does a great job in the show as professional stripper Buddy "Keno" Walsh, gives a lengthy bonus striptease as a delivery man, to the delectation of the ladies (and the prominent gay contingent) in the audience.

There are two main characters among the out-of-work workers. Dave Bukatinsky (Jean-Pierre Ferragamo) is overweight and representatively desperate. His buddy Jerry Lukowski (Scott Guthrie), young and recently divorced, needs to catch up on child-support payments or he'll lose visitation rights.

They find themselves in a men's room stall, hiding from a bunch of women there because their line was too long. The ladies, including Jerry's ex and Dave's wife, are attending a touring Chippendales strip show, to which each has forked over 50 bucks in libidinous glee. Dave's wife (Libby Tatum) mentions that her husband is in such a funk that they haven't had sex in months, and she is considering a tryst with a guy at work.

Other unemployed characters include Malcolm MacGregor (Joel Kipper), whom Jerry and Dave encounter in an exhaust-filled car. That provides the occasion for "Big-Ass Rock," a funny anthem of tough love in which they sardonically discuss ways they can help Malcolm commit suicide. There is "Horse" Simmons (Richard Waits), who leads the guys in the funky "Big Black Man." And we can't forget Ethan Girard (Tyler Fish), who keeps trying to dance up a wall and backflip, like Donald O'Connor in Singing In the Rain.

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