The Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre opens its new Evanston home with David Yazbek and Terrence McNally’s “The Full Monty.” Although possessing a decidedly more upscale feel than its previous Rogers Park home, the new theater space retains much of its former charm (with actors likely to continue bumping shoulders with audience members). An Americanized version of the British movie comedy, “The Full Monty” is set in Buffalo where a recent factory closing has caused the disenfranchisement of numerous men. Forced to spend their days on the couch while their wives work, the unemployed men have little choice but to vote for Trump (my apologies, I just could not resist).
In actuality the men have many choices but few that preserve their dignity. For example, one unemployed dad sweats the child support checks he can no longer make while someone else fools their wife into thinking he still has a job. A few others debate whether or not it is worth taking a job as a mall security guard. One out of the box solution, voiced by the especially frustrated Jerry (Matt Frye) is to stage a one-night only strip tease performance featuring “regular guys” not afraid to strut their stuff. And by regular guys, he means the potbellied, geriatric, and generally out of shape guys they have become. Several former workers actually commit to the plan and together they plan a performance that may or may not include showing “the full monty.”
This production has its comedic moments, although only a few come close to the hilarity of gems such as the classic Saturday Night Live skit involving Chris Farley auditioning to be a Chippendale Dancer. A surprisingly large amount of the script’s focus, in fact, is on the everyday dramas faced by the central characters with these scenes not always emotionally resonating. The musical also lacks enough memorable songs and the ensemble, all talented actors, are too often drowned out by the band. It does, however, finish strong and creatively pulls off an ending that stays true to its title without over exposing any of the actors. Thank goodness for its clever use of stage lights.
The Full Monty is playing at the new Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre (721 Howard Street, Evanston) through January 27th. Tickets are $39-$44 (with a $5 discount for seniors and students) and can be purchased by calling 800-595-4849 or by going to theo-u.com.