MOST OF US may be adding layers of clothes as the biting cold of winter approaches, but inside the theaters of Marquette, well, the actors are taking their clothes off.
Nudity on stage! Alert the censors! Call in the police!
Well, maybe not. Maybe we’re become a little more tolerant, more sophisticated, more cosmopolitan.
Exhibit #1. “The Full Monty,” NMU’s production now playing at the Forest Roberts Theatre. A musical comedy about six out-of-work men in Buffalo struggling to stay afloat financially, to keep their families intact, and to reclaim their self respect….by performing a strip show for a thousand of their neighbors, friends, and family.
A crazy idea but funny. Faye Elder, as the wise-cracking pianist, stole a couple of scenes, but the entire troupe performed admirably, both singing and acting. There was poignancy as well as humor. The audience on opening night loved the show from start to finish.
And the nudity? Many more laughs than gasps in the crowd, maybe because it was men, full of doubts, insecurities, and less-than-perfect bodies, who were stripping down. A much needed role reversal for a society that sometimes imposes impossible demands on women and their bodies.
If there were objections to the nudity on stage, we didn’t see or hear it.
“The reaction was totally positive,” says Bill Digneit, the Director of Theatre, and head of the Department of Theater and Dance at NMU. “We’re always looking to provide a diverse and distinctive educational season of shows at NMU. We’ve heard nothing but positive things from our community of patrons.”
That has to be a relief for some in the NMU community, and encouraging for the rest of us.
EXHIBIT #2. “QUILLS,” being performed by the Wolf’s Head Theater Company at the Ore Dock.
Again, nudity here–a more graphic sort–but the play itself could hardly be more different from “The Full Monty.” It’s witty at times but it’s certainly not fun nor heartwarming nor uplifting nor poignant. It plumbs the depths of men’s souls and what it finds is not very encouraging.
It tells the story of the notorious Marquis de Sade (the derivation of the word “sadism”) during his last days at an insane asylum where he was imprisoned in France. It details his captors’ cruel, grisly, and ultimately futile attempts to prevent him from writing his stories of extreme debaucherie.
Yeah, nothing like six good ol’ guys from Buffalo trying to win back their families and their self respect.
Thomas Laitinen as The Marquis is sensational. A magnetic presence even when he isn’t speaking.
“Quills” is not for everybody. Director Jamie Weeder doesn’t intend it for everybody. But for those who choose to go, you’re treated to two hours of compelling and thoughtful drama.
And ultimately, as with “The Full Monty,” the nudity commands your attention but only briefly before it gives way to what’s far more important–the story, the characters, and the human drama that unfolds on the stage.
Quills has five more performances–the next three Wednesdays, and the the next two Sundays.
The Full Monty has four more performances–Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.