Review: Dinner, funny play both satisfy in Lake George

Going to see “Skin Deep” at Lake George Dinner Theatre, several things became clear to me. One, meal

Quite honestly, dinner theater has never been a big part of my world.

Skin Deep

WHERE: Lake George Dinner Theatre, Holiday Inn Resort, 2223 Canada St., Lake George

WHEN: Through Oct. 29

HOW MUCH: $60-$55

MORE INFO: 668-5762 Ext. 411,

As separate elements — dinner and theater — I love and wholeheartedly support them both. But when they “moved in” together and started sharing the same space, my friendship cooled and my visits grew spare. The union seemed to me a dubious pairing rife with too much drama, overplayed passion and bad ham — on the plate and the stage.

But going to see “Skin Deep” at Lake George Dinner Theatre, several things became clear to me. One, mealtime is a moment to be savored and shared; two, there is nothing better on Earth than a good laugh; and three, a good marriage counselor can guide some questionable couplings into solid, sturdy and fruitful relationships.

Skillfully finding the perfect play for the occasion, adding a great cast and good food, Terry Rabine, Lake George Dinner Theatre’s producer and director, has worked some magic and answers that burning question, “Can this marriage be saved?” with a persuasive “yes.”

Jon Lonoff’s “Skin Deep” is no Pulitzer Prize winner but it is funny and affirming, a clever boulevard comedy, full of warm comedy and one-liners. Offering a perfect match for a drink, salad and beef (or salmon, or pork), the play completely satisfies and surprises, just like cheesecake for dessert. Who wants to see “Death of a Salesman” over a plate of cold chicken or lamb, irony notwithstanding?

Lonoff’s plot may sound like the set up for the sitcom “Mike and Molly,” as its protagonists suffer from the same issues — wounded zaftig loners apprehensively reaching out to take a second chance on love while meddlesome family members support and critique their actions. But where the sitcom cloys, Lonoff’s script is actually funny.

Soothing her pain with Tofutti and pizza, Maureen Mulligan (Emily Mikesell) has holed herself up in her Queens apartment, hiding herself away in a bathrobe, behind a wall of self-deprecating humor. Maureen’s sister Shelia (Monica Congero), the married and manipulative, self-absorbed sibling, sets Maureen up on a blind date with Joe Spinelli (Stephen Pelletier). While Shelia has never set eyes on Spinelli, he comes highly recommended — he is the cousin of the woman who does her nails. Into this mix drops Shelia’s husband, Squire (Dennis Holland), the quintessential understanding and supportive husband, who has a special fondness for Maureen.

As formulaic as the plot may sound, Lonoff’s script is miles better than its television ripoff, aided by top-notch cast and Rabine’s excellent direction.

Mikesell has an exceptional gift of making it appear all too true. Creating a fully rounded woman who sees the big picture, just not herself in it, Mikesell doesn’t allow Maureen to become sad or pathetic, just honest. Matching her, and thankfully so, is Pelletier’s Joe. Painfully aware this may be his final chance for companionship, Pelletier deftly allows the truth to surface without pandering to pitiful or hopeless. The chemistry and timing between the two is wonderful, making the final scene in act one — a couple of forgotten souls finding a connection over ice cream and war stories about failed romance — an hysterical and hopeful moment that the audience can enjoy.

Holland and Congero round out the antics, providing solid support in the roles of the instigators, each sharing moments of reveal that amuse and console.

Rethink any reservations you have about dinner theater and go make some with the box office. This production at Lake George Dinner Theatre is more than a pleasant surprise — it’s solid evening of quality entertainment.

Categories: Entertainment

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