Two years ago, when the cabaret musical theater company Theo Ubique announced that it would be relocating a mile north from the No Exit Cafe in Rogers Park, its snug, hidden oasis-like home of 13 years, to Evanston, critics and fans alike poured one out for the beloved venue. Director Fred Anzevino and music director Jeremy Ramey's company was largely distinguished by its exceptional use of the tight space, which they filled with illustrious voices and ensembles that befitted a significantly larger room.
Now Theo Ubique inaugurates its new digs with The Full Monty, Terrence McNally and David Yazbek's 2000 Americanized adaptation of the 1997 British working-class comedy. It appears to be a work in progress: right now, the space feels like a peculiar mix of Windy City Playhouse chic with the limited functionality and cavernous industrial vibe of the old Viaduct Theatre.
These growing pains would be easier to overlook if this Full Monty about scruffy everydudes (gasp!) stripping were stronger in its own right; instead, many of the voices that carry Yazbek's forgettable pop musical score just aren't up to the usual standards established by Ubique's run over the years, and the sound setup of the live five-piece band has the unfortunate effect of sounding like a piped-in MIDI file.
There are plenty of legitimate observations to be made about the stifling, repressive macho culture that exists in conservative pockets of New York State, but The Full Monty's sexual politics aren't self-aware enough to make it feel like a period piece or relevant, contemporary commentary. I did, however, find some undeniable charm in the "Hot Metal" dancers, though some of that may just have been Stockholm syndrome: the show inexplicably clocks in around 2 hours and 45 minutes. v