The WorkShop Theater Company
By JON LONOFF
Based on the November 2003 run at The WorkShop, Mainstage Theater, NYC
Directed by MARC RAPHAEL
Technical Director/Sound Design TYLER MILLER
Sets JULIA HAHN
Costumes BRENDA PHELPS
Lighting RICHARD KENT GREEN
Stage Manager BAYO
Press Representative BRETT SINGER
Maureen Mulligan – Michele Foor
Sheila Whiting – Tracy Newirth
Squire Whiting – Jed Dickson
Joe Spinelli – Jim Ligon
In a country obsessed with weight, plastic surgery, dating and infidelity, it is little wonder that a playwright has come along and tried to tackle all of these sticky subjects in a new satirical comedy by Jon Lonoff called SKIN DEEP. Escapist entertainment top to bottom, this particular production has the virtue of having vital components on firm ground,
SKIN DEEP seems to be an artistic philosophy in addition to a title. For, this work lies very much in the realm of audience pleasing surface scratching. There are some predictable plot devices, an infirm second act, and a finale that we foresee from the opening of act one. Yet, for all of these technical bugaboos, these were obviously not major flaws, as the crowd delighted in every one-liner the night I attended. I suppose there is something to be said for theater that one does not have to think too much about.
As for the plot of SKIN DEEP, we meet four characters, each of whom has a different take on the beauty is skin deep maxim. First off, we meet sisters Maureen and Sheila, and receive some rapid exposition about familial dynamics. Maureen is a real woman with all of her original parts. She is a bit older and single, and that fact is attributed to her weight and prior bad relationships. Sheila, actually the older sister, is on the short list to evolve into Jocelyn Wildenstein. Convinced that surgical enhancements will keep husband Squire dutifully at her side, she has begun a systematic reconstruction of her former self. Maureen, as scripted, is given dialogue worthy of a stand-up comic, as her self-consciousness has caused the character to erect a shield forged with humor that is sometimes self-deprecating. Luckily, Michele Foor has the chops to deliver the lines, even when they do not really translate as real dialogue. This comes most in handy when the fourth character, Joe, enters the picture, as a blind date orchestrated by Sheila to ensure that Maureen will have an escort for the next family wedding.
The cast members of SKIN DEEP are all quite affable. As Joe, Jim Ligon plays a regular guy who does not have a disingenuous bone in his body, and we believe every moment of it. Jed Dickson’s Squire is composed and conflicted, but quiet in appropriate contrast to the rest. Tracy Newirth’s Sheila is a creation of comic inspiration, and Ms. Foor’s Maureen is like a big serving of comfort food.
Helmed by Marc Raphael’s attentive direction, the production team is right on par with the actors. Julia Hahn’s set looks like a real apartment. Tyler Miller’s sound creates a subtle backdrop that constantly reminds the audience of the repairs that need to be made. Brenda Phelps’ costumes tell me that she really understands whom these characters wish to present themselves to be. Finally, while the lights did not seem to be functioning normally, the light design by Richard Kent Green was well integrated.
So, what do I have to say about SKIN DEEP from the deep, dark recesses of my mind? I say, it’s not that deep, and it was never meant to be. I say, if you go you will have some laughs. I ask you, why not?
- Kessa De Santis -