Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
The Full Monty
Also see Susan's reviews of Other Desert Cities and Ghost-Writer
The Keegan Theatre in Washington has been gaining a reputation in recent years for its fine work with musicals, and its joyful production of The Full Monty benefits from strong ensemble work and clever staging.
The 2001 musical by Terrence McNally (book) and David Yazbek (music and lyrics) didn't shine as much as it could have on Broadwayit had the bad luck to open in the same Tony Award season as The Producersbut it's had a robust life since then. What's not to like about a story in which six unemployed steelworkers find fulfillment doing something they never imagined doing? (Unlike the 1997 film on which it's based, the musical sets the action in Buffalo, New York, rather than England.)
Directors Mark A. Rhea and Susan Marie Rhea have brought together and guided a cast that is both winning and accomplished, including two Helen Hayes Award recipients: Rena Cherry Brown, a hoot as the unflappable rehearsal pianist Jeanette, and Priscilla Cuellar as Vicki, the shopaholic wife of former mill foreman Harold (Charlie Abel). Kurt Boehm is appealingly rough-edged as Jerry, who has the idea of performing as a male stripper as a way to raise some quick cash, and shaggy Matthew Dewberry gives a sweet performance as Dave, a heavy man with some big insecurities.
What else? Abel amuses as a man with an MBA who can't accept losing his own job; Patrick Doneghy steals his opening scene as Horse, a man who would seem to be a bit old and arthritic for this sort of thing; John Loughney displays an ethereal voice as mama's boy Malcolm; and Michael Innocenti gets to goof around (and, no doubt, collect bruises) as "natural talent" Ethan.
The most innovative thing about the Rheas' staging is the set design by 4Point Design Collective. Keegan works in the confined space of the Church Street Theater, built in the 1800s as a gym, so the design team has created a space delineated by screens and sets each scene through projections. The action shifts effortlessly from a restroom to a street, from a dance studio to a living room, and the actors can slip in and out of character by performing in silhouette behind one of the screens. Erin Nugent's closely observed, sometimes hilarious costumes also benefit the total picture.