"Shake your ass like, 'Come on, baby, this is all for YOU.'" Director Greg Tamblyn's voice echoes through Lake Oswego's Lakewood Center for the Arts.
Theater lovers who are here to attend a community play walk through the hallways, stopping to view photos of previous productions. But when they peek into the studio from which Tamblyn's kinked-out dance instructions are emanating, they have an altogether new sight to behold.
Six middle-aged men stand in a row, shaking their asses like our local strip club's finest. They pivot, grabbing their crotches while Tamblyn sings, "I'll show you mine if you show me yours," then, all at once, they start air-humping.
The men are rehearsing "Let It Go," the final scene of The Full Monty, Terrence McNally's '00 Broadway phenomenon that became a smash despite a critical bitch-slapping. This is the final act where the men go from fully clothed to—well, no need to ruin the end here.
Most of the cast is fully aware of the show's flesh-tone finale. Of the group practicing for the big tease, only Stanley Perryman and I (standing in for an ill actor) are unfamiliar with the specifics. Everybody follows Tamblyn as he teaches us his white-boy shuffle, "Step, step, left, right."
Soon enough, we're pantomiming the stripping.
"Your pants are off," says Tamblyn. "Now you're in a G-string. Turn around, and you're just gonna let your ass whip."
50-year-old Perryman, who commutes from Seattle for the show, moans grimly. "When my ass starts shaking, it doesn't stop," he chuckles. "It makes noise."
Like the '97 sleeper-hit indie film it's based on, The Full Monty features a group of down-on-their-luck blue-collar workers who secretly strip to make ends meet. It's a warts-and-all production, and the men fit the part, gruff faces, beer guts and man boobs.
The story deals with insecurity and confidence, themes that become apparent during the rehearsal, where husky, silver-haired, 45-year-old Jim Caputo's incessant nipple-tweaking cuts through the tension, and the men's imperfections take center stage.
If the discomfort of stripping isn't enough, there is still the matter of the microphone. The cast uses personal mikes, wired to transmitters that are usually carried in a shirt or pants pocket. As G-strings don't have pockets, a cold, wallet-sized transmitter is wrapped in a condom.
"We're just going to tuck that into the camo," says Tamblyn, grabbing his junk. Perryman pales. "You mean...the actual hammock?" I ask.
I take another glance at Perryman, who's now turning green.
Scarier still, the men spend the entire second act with the contraption sandwiched under their nutsacks. "I feel like a eunuch," says Caputo.
This isn't the first time these boys have dropped their drawers for Monty. Caputo, Rick Lewis and Leif Norby participated in a blitzkrieg-style benefit
production of the show last June. It was a one-night engagement, with scripts on stage and no (un)dress rehearsal. With only four rehearsals, they didn't have time to get bashful. When they finally disrobed together (once, the day of the show), they were blinded by the thrill of going balls-out in front of hundreds of screaming audience members.
This time it's different. Last year's success prompted Tamblyn's Pixie Dust Productions (best know for local productions of Peter Pan) to book the show for a monthlong stint, complete with a full band for the jazzy numbers. This time out, these guys have time to be insecure.
"I'm a big guy," says Caputo. "But, just like in the play, my wife always tells me I'm gorgeous, so I'm not really insecure about it."
"The reason I've never done nude is because I never wanted to," says the gangly Norby, 38, who's known for his work in Sugar. "If you're going to see somebody [naked] on stage, it has to be warranted. Otherwise it's a peep show. So it's definitely an insecurity I'm facing, and I'm doing it with style."
With the show's opening rapidly approaching, there isn't much time to worry. The cast members are too busy undulating, rehearsing and getting fitted in banana hammocks to think about whose titties will jiggle or whose lumbar is going to be sore.
Tamblyn tells us to take it from the top, that there's no such thing as too nasty.
"You only live once," is the last spoken line of the play. It's the attitude the actors have adopted and—chest hair bristling, asses jiggling—they're almost ready to grin and bear it.
opens Friday, March 10, at the World Trade Center, 121 SW Salmon St., 624-0403, www.fullmontypdx.com. 8 pm Fridays-Saturdays through April 1; 8 pm Thursdays-Saturdays, April 6-15. $35.