Paul Kerr & Elizabeth Loos in Skin Deep.
By Jon Lonoff
Directed by Bekki Jo Schneider
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2014 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved
Skin Deep is a perfectly paced comedy stuffed with so many one-liners most of them pretty good, that it is certain to be a crowd pleaser. Yet behind the laughter playwright Jon Lonoff seems to be getting at something.
Maureen Mulligan (Elizabeth Loos) is a lonely, single woman preparing for a blind date set up by her sister Sheila (Janet Essenpreis), and her husband Squire Whiting (Brian Bowman). The would-be-suitor is Joe Spinelli (Paul Kerr), a straightforward, no-nonsense restaurant owner.
The jokes establish an artificial, sit-com tone that at times gets in the way of some of the more observant moments. Lonoff has written the two sisters as a study in contrasts: where Maureen is grounded, down-to-earth, self-effacing, and a “full-figured woman,” Sheila is slick, superficial, and glossily attractive, in part, because of on ongoing series of surgical enhancements. Sheila has paid for her confidence and self-esteem and Maureen struggles to have any of those qualities, even though she has a razor-sharp wit and a brassy, vivacious personality.
Although the characterizations are steeped in stereotypes, they are thought provoking in examining the way women see themselves. Maureen turns to food for solace and effectively uses her abrasive manner as a defense against the risk of intimacy. Sheila risks losing her identity by repeatedly reinventing her physical beauty: a tragic expression of deep insecurity. These may be clichés, but I imagine many in the audience could identify with the issues they represent.
This production plays the material with a broad touch, and Elizabeth Loos lets it rip as Maureen with impeccable timing and a slightly over-emphatic delivery that still allows the pathos to reach the audience. Janet Essenpreiss’s Sheila is perhaps less interesting by design, but the commitment in the performance makes it stick. As Joe, Paul Kerr is rough enough around the edges to be slightly out-of-synch with other characters, and as Squire, Brian Bowman is a tender character who seems to come by his self-confidence honestly.
The script brushes up against over-complication with a half-hearted attempt at farce-like misunderstandings in the climax that are only distracting from the story, but the play ends in a way satisfying to the audience.
The theme of female self-perception/empowerment was included in the pre-show performance from The Footnotes, which featured a humorous yet non-ironic rendition of “All About The Bass” pitched with a wink and a nod to the middle-aged and older audience.
January 6 – February 15, 2015
Derby Dinner Playhouse
525 Marriott Drive
Clarksville, IN 47129
[box_light]Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at the Louisville Visual Art Association during the days, including being one of the hosts of PUBLIC on ARTxFM, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.[/box_light]