If you like a show that is filled with laugh-out-loud humor then SKIN DEEP, by Jon Lonoff, on stage at Old Academy Players, is sure to please. First produced in 2001, at the 42nd Street Workshop Theatre in New York, Lonoff’s play is filled with clever one-liners, many of which reach deeper into the heart than at first may seem apparent, making this feel-good comedy a definite crowd pleaser.
Director Nancy Frick assembled a perfect cast for this four-character play. The resemblance of each actor to the part they have been cast to play is spot-on. The central character is Maureen, played brilliantly by Courtney Bambrick. Maureen turns to food, and lots of it, for refuge from her exceedingly low self-esteem which is underscored by her negative self-image as a very overweight woman. She attempts to hide her self-loathing behind a barrage of self-depreciating quips intended to keep at bay anyone who might get to close. By day she is an accomplished dental assistant living in Forest Hills, NY. By night, she is at the mercy of her sister who “only wants what is best for her.”
Charlotte Higgins plays Sheila, the slim and attractive older sister who is married and maintains her appearance with frequent tune-ups by her cosmetic surgeon. Sheila believes that if she can get her sister to also take better care of her own appearance she, too, can find the right man. Higgins balances nicely the personal angst of her character whose self-confident meddling in her sister’s life compensates for a deeper concern regarding her own ability to hold on to Squire, her handsome and successful husband.
Though Squire seems an awkward character name for Sheila’s husband, it no doubt represents a sensible label for this role since one meaning of the word squire is a gentleman escorting a woman—in this case his high-maintenance wife, Sheila. Michael Gavanus fills the role well and manages to carry off his largely “straight-man” duties with a good deal of charm, even when he is unwillingly being pulled into a scheme set in motion by Sheila to arrange a blind date for her overweight and reclusive sister.
When, by the middle of the first act, the blind date arrives, he turns out to be unexpectedly perfect for Maureen and so, unwittingly, sets in motion a series of complications which contribute to many very funny moments. Norman Burnosky as Joe, the blind date, is wonderfully real in his portrayal of this simple, unassuming man who genuinely wants to connect romantically with Maureen.
Each of the four actors avoids playing for laughs, not an easy task, and in doing so add further dimension to the lives of their characters. The Queens and Brooklyn accents are also part of the appeal this production holds for its audiences. Particularly outstanding in this regard are Charlotte Higgins whose Queen’s accent ramps up as she becomes more and more emotional and Burnosky’s steady Brooklyn accent which makes his character all the more fun as he struggles to ride out the puzzling relationship snags he encounters.
This is a fun, fast-moving two act play featuring a perfect ensemble of acting talent, performing within a well-designed and decorated set, supported by Producers Mary Jane Fullam, Cary Gottlieb and Michelle Moscicki, in a comfortable and historic theatre—A winning combination for anyone seeking a very entertaining show.
by Jon Lonoff
Directed by Nancy Frick
January 13 – 28, 2012
Old Academy Players
3534-3544 Indian Queen Lane
Philadelphia, PA 19129