Exposing The Full Monty

by Amy Kingsley

It’s a Friday evening, and I’m lined up behind two women, both of them middle-aged, one of them wearing a floral-print tunic, at Winston-Salem’s Arts Council Theater. They dawdle at the ticket counter, rifling through purses with the giddy fluster of teenagers. “Oh, I think I’ve had too many margaritas!” one says. “Or maybe I haven’t had enough.” Tickets in hand, the ladies totter toward the auditorium, where, in a matter of minutes, the curtain will come up on the Little Theatre of Winston-Salem/Community Theatre of Greensboro joint production of The Full Monty. As it turns out, I’ve never seen the movie or musical version of The Full Monty before tonight. But I have been to a male revue, an evening recounted in these pages by our gone but not forgotten art director Lauren Cartwright. It was savage. The club hired extra security that night, and even they could barely hold back the throng of lusty office types and mean biker chicks. Tonight’s crowd promises to be a bit better behaved, if only because their ranks are liberally sprinkled with the residents of a nearby retirement community. Still, the audience at The Full Monty is more boisterous than your usual community theater crowd. On the entertainment continuum, this show falls squarely in the middle of high art and low smut, with more story than burlesque and more skin than the Wizard of Oz. Almost as soon as I sit down, the lights dim and the orchestra starts. Terrence McNally, the playwright, knows his audience and panders to them by opening with a strip. Actresses enter from the audience and whip the crowd into a tittering frenzy. Edwin Wilson, who plays professional stripper Teddy Slaughter, undresses down to his skivvies. The audience howls its approval of his muscles, which are mercifully oil-less. Moments later, we meet our protagonists at a union meeting. For the Broadway version, McNally relocated the six unemployed steelworkers from Sheffield, England to Buffalo, NY. In the first number, best friends Jerry and Dave take their place in a kind of blue-collar chorus line, where they sing and step alongside the flannel-shirted members of the male ensemble. Jerry, divorced from his wife, is facing the prospect of losing custody of his son because he hasn’t been able to make his child support payments. His best friend Dave is depressed and worried that his wife is losing interest in their marriage. Jerry and Dave follow his wife, Georgie, into the male strip show with the notion of dragging her out. Instead of leaving with the missus, the duo leaves with the idea of doing a little of their own stripping to make some quick cash. Unfortunately, neither man is endowed with movie-star looks. And they don’t know how to dance. So they enhance their ranks with a former foreman, a depressed security guard, a daft youngster and an older man named “Horse.” Horse, played by Ralph Shaw, has the moves the group needs, but not the equipment his nickname would suggest. Ethan, the younger man played by Scott Terrill, does. Jerry, worried that the show won’t generate the amount of money he needs, hastily promises a gaggle of women “the full monty.” Dave, who is worried about his weight, abruptly quits. I won’t ruin the ending by revealing exactly how much the men reveal. All I will say is that a night at The Full Monty is more entertaining by a mile than ladies’ night at Club Kryptonite. And there is much less chance you’ll end up with injuries inflicted by a crowd of fake-fingernailed harpies or incurred from a slip in the stripper oil.

To comment on this story, e-mail Amy Kingsley at