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Photograph by Jeff Thomas

Sexy Things: The men of 'The Full Monty' take it all off.

Full Frontal

'The Full Monty' gets naked; 'Woman in Mind' goes nuts

By David Templeton

The final two shows of the Summer Repertory Theatre's summer-long 2005 season--the Tony-nominated musical version of The Full Monty and Alan Ayckbourne's cerebral farce Woman in Mind--are explorations of modern social identity crises, one from an outrageously male perspective, and the other decidedly female.

In Woman in Mind, Susan (Stephanie Philo), a middle-class, middle-aged British woman, has just knocked herself unconscious after stepping on a rake in her backyard. The family members who assemble to comfort her (Beau Hirshfield, Tro Shaw and Cody Andrus, as her husband Andy, daughter Lucy, and brother Tony, respectively) are loving, devoted, charming and wonderful. Unfortunately, it soon becomes apparent that they are imaginary, the desperate invention of her hammered brain.

Susan's real husband Gerald (Dan Evers) and his live-in sister Muriel (Jacqueline Babb) are far less perfect. What follows is Susan's attempts (alternately funny and sad) to come to grips with her own growing unhappiness and make her pain known to her husband, and to somehow deal with the new family members whom only she can see and who are becoming frighteningly insistent on remaining in her life. In between the two extremes is the sensitive family doctor, Bill (John Wallis), who might just be the real-life middle ground that Susan needs.

The cast is fine but the star that shines the brightest in Woman in Mind is the script itself. Ayckbourne's challenging ideas, and the language with which he explores them, are as funny and insightful as they are packed with naked, unavoidable truth.

And speaking of naked truths, The Full Monty is all its been cracked up to be, and more. As anyone knows who saw the 1996 movie on which this musical version was based, a good portion of the story's dramatic tension rises from the question of whether or not a motley band of unemployed steelworkers will bare their all when they attempt to earn some much-needed dosh as male strippers. Everything building up to the big moment is great, unchecked fun.

Jerry (Matt Steiner) and his best friend Dave (Martin Giannini, who also plays the Beast in Beauty and the Beast) have not only lost their jobs, they also feel emasculated. Like Susan from Woman in Mind, their sense of self is in crisis, and the people in their lives are now suffering. Seeing it as a step down to take a job at the local Wal-Mart, the buddies instead invent a scheme to make a big score in a single night of stripping. After all, women pay to see the Chippendales dancers, so wouldn't women pay even more to watch straight men take it all off?

Unfortunately, Dave thinks he's fat, Jerry can't really dance and the other guys they coerce into joining the act--their former boss (C. J. Dion); a sweet, suicidal nerd (James Paul Xavier); and a guy nicknamed "Horse" (Ray Scott) who appears to have his own size issues--aren't much better. At least they have Ethan (Tim Kodres), a hunk with no size issues whatsoever. The men all have tremendous singing voices and use them well, backed up by an orchestra that was uniformly excellent the night I saw the show.

Adding to the fun is Mollie Boice, apparently having the time of her life as the strippers' bawdy accompanist, Jeanette, the kind of woman who wishes the guys good luck by shouting, "Break a penis!" She's a joy to behold, matched only by the strippers' unbridled glee when they finally prove they're man enough to give their families (and the audience) what they really want.

This is one not to be missed.

'Woman in Mind' runs July 22, 26-27 and 31 and Aug. 2 and 4. Thursday-Saturday at 8pm; also July 31, Aug. 2 and 4 and Sunday at 2pm. Newman Auditorium. 'The Full Monty' runs July 26-27 and 31 and Aug. 2 and 4. Tuesday-Saturday at 8pm; also July 31, Aug. 2 and 4 and Sunday at 2pm. Burbank Auditorium. SRJC, 1501 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa. $10-$20. 707.527.4343.

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From the July 20-26, 2005 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.

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