Half a monty

More Men In And Out of Clothes

By Steven E. Thornburg and Edward Crosby Wells
A Spotlight On Production
Pulse Theatre
Non-union production (closes June 21)
432 W. 4nd St. (532-8887)
Review by John Chatterton

More Men In And Out of Clothes intertwines two plays by two playwrights: Secrets Every Naked Dancer Should Tell!, by Steven E. Thornburg, and 3 Guys In Drag Selling Their Stuff, by Edward Crosby Wells. The former comprises three pairs of monologs, delivered while in the act of stripping, by male dancers; the latter is two scenes in what about amounts to a one-act play about three suburban ladies (played by three men in drag) having a yard sale. Even though three scenes (plus an epilog) of Secrets... alternate with two scenes from 3 Guys..,. the two can be considered separately.

In Secrets Every Naked Dancer Should Tell, two dancers perform a slow-motion striptease on opposite sides of the stage. Each dancer took turns getting down from his pedestal and delivering what appeared to be his thoughts, often about the other dancer, while the other dancer ground on, oblivious. Eventually each dancer was quite nude.

Unfortunately, while the physical stripping was complete, the emotional stripping barely scratched the epidermis. Some of that can be attributed to the performers' uneven delivery, but mostly the blame falls with the writing, which doesn't deal with much more than idle thoughts and neuroses. The only dramatic qualities of the writing come when one dancer's thoughts are at odds with what the other tells us, or when a one dancer hints he might pursue some sort of relationship with the other.

There were also some difficulties with casting, no doubt compounded by the need that these actors also strip: Marlon John's diction made his lines hard to understand, though he had a perfect bod for the part. Denis Stanton was perceptive and subtle in his portrayal of the soccer-dad half of his character (though he did have the disconcerting habit of shutting his eyes while speaking). He would have been more effective as the gay half ("Daddy") if he'd sported another hundred pounds or so to go with his tattoos. Tim Tolen, as the MC, was a bit stiff and could have used more vocal variety. But with more flesh on their roles, these brave actors could have put their courage to better use. (Also featuring Chris Murphy, Michael Martino, and Tomas Nielson.)

By contrast, 3 Guys In Drag Selling Their Stuff was a trashy delight. It concerns three guys in drag having a yard sale. Diva (the wonderful Robert C. Boston), a Captain Bligh type, bosses around Lillian (Dana Pointe), whose chief expertise is making punch (with so much alcohol it could probably fuel a rocket). Poor Tink (the very funny Myles Cohen), confined to a wheelchair, is mostly comatose; when she tries to make a request, the others invariably misunderstand. Diva and Lillian hark straight back to Jackie Gleason and Art Carney.

The miscommunications of this misfit trio cause a friend (uncredited) to be run over by a pickup while trying to cross the street in her walker, and finally, à la South Park, result in a police shootout when someone plays with a cap gun, a satisfying result for a laff-a-minute, harebrained play. It takes place on a suburban planet of its own, and, separated from Secrets, could do well as a summer entertainment in P-town.

Costumes for 3 Guys were trashily delightful; sound for both was adequate; lights were rough (for 3 Guys) and extremely so for Secrets.

Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2000 John Chatterton