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Wednesday, 27 September 2006 00:00

Bare necessities: HART pushes the envelope with staging of ‘The Full Monty’

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By Sarah Kucharski • Staff Writer

It’s late at night and Georgie is standing at the door waiting for Dave to come home. Her suitcase is packed. There’s a look of disgust mixed with anguish on her face.

 

Dave opens the door to find his wife angry and suspicious. She confronts him. All these late nights he’s been out, she thought he was out looking for a job. She was wrong. But even if he was cheating, she didn’t think he was into kinky sex, Georgie screams, choking back tears, throwing a pair of red, spandex bikini style underware at Dave’s head.

Dave half laughs, unsure if his explanation is really any better than what Georgie’s accusing him of. He’s not cheating. He and some of the guys from work — or where they used to work before they all got laid off — had gotten the idea to put on a strip show for money. He and Jerry had climbed through the window of the ladies room at the club where the professional male strippers were doing a show just to find out what all their wives were squealing about.

But now, Dave is having second thoughts about their decision to put on their own show. Who would want to see this naked, Dave asks Georgie, shaking his round stomach. Georgie (Tabitha Judy) softly smiles and looks up at Dave. “Me,” she says.

The scene exposes what’s at the core of the Haywood Arts Regional Theater’s production of “The Full Monty,” set to open this Friday night. The talk around town has been about whether the cast of six men will or will not give the audience what the title promises — The Full Monty, or for those who don’t know what it means, strip completely naked. While such water cooler talk certainly is titillating, it belittles the heart of the play.

Although the story originally was a film set in Ireland, and then was reworked for Broadway to be set in Buffalo, N.Y., its content strikes a chord in tone with the Western North Carolina economy. The town’s largest manufacturing plant has shut down and the workers are out of a job and low on confidence.

“There’s nothing to take its place,” said Steven Lloyd, assistant/technical director of “The Full Monty.”

Dave’s wife tries to talk him into getting a job at the local Wal-Mart, and several other guys from the plant are applying at the mall. Jerry also stands to lose his kid, as he can no longer make child-support payments, and his ex, Pam (Shanda Jacobs), is hoping to soon remarry.

These totally human characters are what appealed to a group Lloyd took to New York when show first opened. The group saw both “The Full Monty” and the highly-rated Nathan Lane/Matthew Broderick musical “The Producers.” The group — who were mostly retirees — liked “The Full Monty” better, Lloyd said.

“There’s more of an emotional catharsis,” he said, referring to the change audience members go through along with “The Full Monty” characters.

HART is one of the first off-Broadway theaters to do “The Full Monty” — an achievement for any theater, much less a community theater in small-town North Carolina.

“We have been such a good participant with the music theater industry that they trusted us I think to do this show,” said Libba Feitcher, a HART founder, board member and volunteer.

Trust. It’s a word that’s gained a lot of meaning to the cast of “The Full Monty,” particularly those who play the six male leads — Tom Chaudion as Jerry, James Strother Stingley as Dave, Rod Thomas Leigh as Malcolm, Mark Jones and Ethan, Rick Sibley as Harold and Trevor Perry as Horse. The group of mill workers turned strippers must learn to trust — or just close their eyes and hope for the best and try not to die of embarrassment — as they rehearse for the one-night-only show. The nerves are two fold. The characters are nervous, the actors are nervous.

“The actors around me are going through a lot of the same things as far as some of the characters did in preparing for the big night,” Stingley said.

A week before the Haywood County Arts Council’s Fun Party series sneak preview of “The Full Monty,” Lloyd was in the tech booth readjusting more than 100 lighting cues, which were programmed in according to script, not the actual actors’ movements. Chaudion was onstage doing his best to sing a solo. It the first night since he blew out his voice trying to hold in a sneeze the week prior.

“It’s not bad for where we’re at, but we’ve still got another week,” Lloyd said.

When it was six days until the real curtain call, and a song in the show lamented the same time frame until the big strip show, Stingley remembers turning to look at the cast with a “deer in the headlights” look on his face, as the realization sunk in that show time was coming — soon.

“A lot of theater you get to hide behind the character,” Strigley said.

Not so, with “The Full Monty.”

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