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A CurtainUp Review

Skin Deep
By Amanda Cooper

I wouldn't take my socks off, no not on the first date -- just my shoes. --- Joe Spinelli
Michele Foor & Jim Ligon
True: When a play can make you laugh out loud, it is a good sign.

False: When just about the only thing a play can do is make you laugh out loud, it is not a good sign.

Skin Deep, a comedy about two mid-life sisters who are polar opposites, is The Workshop Theater Company's latest development with playwright Jon Lonoff. Maureen is the younger, homelier, single and overweight sister. Sheila is the elder, gorgeous, married sister. Yet they both have their crutches -- Maureen uses humor, and Sheila uses plastic surgery. The two are quite a hysterical pair onstage; one talking proudly of her surgical enhancements, the other boasting of her midnight snacks.

We soon meet Sheila's husband, one of those middle-aged men whose relaxed attractiveness makes you instantly like him. Yes, Sheila is trying to keep him interested and entertained with all her surgery, but it quickly becomes obvious that this is not needed, Squire loves Sheila as is. There is some odd sister-in-law friction between Maureen and him though it is unclear, and her uncharacteristic sexual jokes leave an uncomfortable feeling onstage and throughout the house.

The plot progresses through Sheila's setting Maureen up on a blind date -- an oddly successful one at that! Yet, not surprisingly, she cannot deal with this potential, and shoos Joe Spinelli back into the night.

The acting is good even though it feels one-dimensional. But that weakness is more attributable to playwright Lonoff's lack of subtext and only bits and pieces of a back-story.

The winner of the evening is underdog Joe, played by Jim Ligon with just enough puppy innocence that you don't mind his slight thick-headedness. While the other characters are likeable, Joe is lovable. Michele Foor and Tracy Newirth as Maureen and Sheila respectively have great comic timing but not enough so to carry the play through its second act.

Director Marc Raphael also seems to come up a little short. He fails to pull the play beyond its surface level. Thus things draw to a painfully predictable end, all the tied up plot points still feeling not fully resolved, explained or explored.

A final point that needs to be made is that Foor does not meet my "overweight" criteria. Perhaps she is on the large side, but considering how much Maureen supposedly binges, she's blessed with a great metabolism. As her largeness is a major plot point, having a medium sized woman play this part does underscore the reason why women have so many weight and image issues.
Written by Jon Lonoff
Directed by Marc Raphael
Cast: Michele Foor, Tracy Newirth, Jed Dickson, and Lim Ligon
Set Design: Julia Hahn
Lighting Design: Richard Kent Green
Costume Design: Brenda Phelps
Sound Design: Tyler Miller
Running Time 2 hours, plus a 10 minute intermission
WorkShop, 312 West 36th Street (West of 8th Avenue), Main Stage Theater 212/ 695-4173
Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8:00pm-- $15.
Reviewed by Amanda Cooper based on 11/13/03 performance

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