“Monster” – Nearly Naked Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ November 9, 2015


Nearly Naked Theatre, The Hardes Theatre, Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

When theater bores a receptive audience, there’s nothing worse.  That’s the impact of Neal Bell’s “Monster,” Nearly Naked Theatre’s lifeless, ineptly acted, and blandly directed current production.

It takes place in “the early 1800s somewhere in the Arctic Ocean and Europe” but you’d never guess the locale from the miserable set.  So “Monster” starts with a dreadful script, a terrible setting, but then a seven person acting ensemble arrives to play a variety of characters.  You will rarely witness such miserable performing on a local stage.  There’s nothing to save “Monster.”

What is unexplainable is that Nearly Naked Theatre has always been one of our better local troupes. They often perform unusual and unknown plays but they usually perform their selections with a bit of stylistic panache.  That always reliable spark is completely missing from “Monster.”

Director Kenneth Anthony demonstrates no ability to move performers around the stage in any kind of interesting patterns.  And Anthony fails to instill any life in his actors who utter their dialogue as if they haven’t a clue what the playwright means or intends.  Entrances don’t happen with impunity as actors amble on as if they either don’t know what awaits them or as if they are bored.

What is “Monster” about?  It’s about acceptance and how evil can plague anyone that forces them to do extreme things that others neither understand nor accept.  Further details are unnecessary since everything in “Monster” is so predictable and dull.

So neither director Anthony nor his actors have much to work with and only Vanessa Kiernan who plays three character roles performs with a bit of distinctive style.  The remaining performances appear to be actors who have yet to dig their chops into a role to create a character that means anything.

And, as if what’s on stage at “Monster” wasn’t bad enough, there were audience clusters that further vilified the production with snickers and giggles throughout the script because it is so sophomoric and the production is so inept.  Many in the audience abandoned ship at the intermission.

“Monster” is one of the worst theater experiences of my 55 years of attending over 5,000 productions.  “Monster” drags on until November 29th.  For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151.

Grade: F