Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay


The Naked Truth
Left Edge Theatre
Review by Jeanie K. Smith | Season Schedule

Also see Jeanie's reviews of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and A Chorus Line and Patrick's reviews of The Phantom of the Opera and Detroit '67


Serena Elize Flores, Katie Kelley,
Bonnie Jean Shelton, Heather Danielle,
Anabel Pimentel, and Angela Squire

Photo by Eric Chazankin
Five women gather in a village hall somewhere in London, ostensibly to take a pole-dancing class, but really to kick-start their lives in one way or another. Playwright Dave Simpson is best known in the U.K. for his hit play Girls' Night Out, described as a hen party meets The Full Monty, which features a bachelorette group going to a male strip club. In The Naked Truth, Simpson takes the hen party pole-dancing, with similar effect—lots of "girl talk," raunchy dialogue about men, weight issues, marital woes, and sex. Left Edge has assembled an excellent cast, all of whom communicate their characters and the pole-dancing premise wonderfully, especially assuming that none of them were professional pole-dancers before this.

There's Bev (Angela Squire), who tosses off randy jokes about sex and men, and glibly counters criticisms about her weight, but inside she's lonely. Her young friend Faith (Anabel Pimentel) just wishes she could actually have a boyfriend. Trisha (Katie Kelley) has the perfect husband, but obsesses about making her body even more ideal, until she gets reproof from Sarah (Bonnie Jean Shelton), upscale matron who has had a partial mastectomy. Rita (Serena Elize Flores) hopes to launch a new career, and the class teacher, Gabby (Heather Danielle), strives to meet all their diverse needs and personalities while nursing wounds from her own past.

There's no actual nakedness, and sometimes the truth proves elusive, but the jokes are plentiful, as are sight gags as the women struggle with "loving their pole." When one of the women receives devastating news, a more serious theme creeps into the proceedings, and they all rally to a new commitment.

It's definitely a "feel-good" genre, women bonding over laughter and tears, commiserating about shared issues, and gaining confidence in themselves. The play has had at least six national tours already in the U.K., testimony that audiences, particularly women, must still love this kind of show, no matter how predictable and stereotypical. In this case, the payoff at the resolution is surprisingly different—still veering towards sentimental, sure, but at least providing truly remarkable entertainment in the bargain.

Major quibble: the heavy colloquial London accents are problematic, and aren't necessary anyway. If the characters must be English, a suggestion of accent would be enough. It's often hard to understand the dialogue and jokes are lost, in part because of the accents but also because these talented actresses sometimes seem to lose the comedic rhythm in their efforts to deliver the accent. It's easiest to understand Sarah because she's more posh, but the other characterizations would not suffer for softening the accents.

Lighting by April George fine-tunes the studio ambience as well as multiple transitions, and gives great performance lighting for the finale. The simple set by designer and director Argo Thompson transports us into a remote studio, with the requisite poles. Costumes by Sandra Ish manage many different looks for each woman and say volumes about character. Sergia Louise Anderson's choreography is a marvelous introduction to the niche world of pole-dancing, and the women's gradual progress as dancers adds appreciation for the difficulty and beauty of the art. Sound by Joe Winkler adds fun music and mood. David Templeton deserves mention for his delightful several appearances—I can say no more.

Don't go for any deep feminist message, or for meaningful sexual politics—it's not that kind of show. Let the genre be what it is, and enjoy these fine actresses breathing real life into a pep-talk. And definitely don't leave before the finale.

The Naked Truth, through September 30, 2018, by Left Edge Theatre at Studio Theater, Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Rd., Santa Rosa CA. Tickets $25.00-$40.00 can be purchased online at www.leftedgetheatre.com or by phone at 707-546-3600.


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