EDITOR’S NOTE: This review represents a Parent’s-Eye-Review of local theater and is written by a mom, writer and editor who just happens to love theater. It is not written by a “professional” theater critic. I just like what I like, and I like to leave you, the reader, to make up your own mind about the theater productions I review. But you can’t do that unless you go see them, which I highly encourage you to do.
PITTSFIELD — Last week I had the pleasure of seeing my first Pittsfield Town Player production EVER. It was a brisk Thursday evening, kids were busy with homework, recovering from the flu or off with dad at a venison supper football fundraiser, and catching the dress rehearsal for the company’s “Skin Deep” seemed like a great opportunity for a Girls Night Out. So I grabbed my friend Jen, and we headed to the Whitney Center for the Arts.
I wasn’t familiar with “Skin Deep” and I was pleasantly surprised by the subject matter: A large, lovable lonely heart named Maureen Mulligan (Monica Bliss) gives romance one last shot on a blind date with the amiable but awkward Joe Spinelli (Thomas Suski). She relies on sharp wit and wisecracks to cover her feelings and he can’t contain his eagerness which leaves him clumsy of manners and blunt in speech. But, they’re perfect for each other, even if they won’t admit it. The blind date was arranged by her sister, Sheila (Leah Marie Parker) and her husband, the charming and attractive Squire Whiting (Todd Hamilton), who is growing impatient with Sheila and her nonstop cosmetic surgeries. Years ago, Squire may have had feelings for Maureen before Maureen introduced him to Sheila. Got that?
Now I may be a little biased being that Monica Bliss is part of the BFF Family, but I loved her. Monica makes the audience fall in love with Maureen, laugh with Maureen and empathize with Maureen when she struggled as to whether or not to she should trust in Joseph Spinelli’s affections for her can be felt. My only complaint was the anxiety and OCD feelings the state of Maureen’s apartment brought up for me, and I almost jumped up and cheered when she actually cleared off an entire table when Squire came to visit. 🙂
Speaking of Squire, Todd Hamilton created a likable and genuine Squire in all his ogling of other women, and hinted at affections for Maureen and his final declaration of love to his wife Sheila. What? Yes, I was just as surprised myself that I found him likable, but I think it could also have been attributed to the fact that he was the only cast member who didn’t have to focus attention on a New York accent, and thus could focus all his acting attention on his character. Perhaps? Anyway, you could feel the sparks between he and Maureen throughout the production and at times I felt there was more of a chemistry between these two characters than anyone else in the play. Hmmmm.
As for Mr. Spinelli, played by Thomas Suski, I felt the interactions between he and Maureen were made more awkward than they needed to be and the long pauses and inability to ever look at Maureen made these scenes a little bit uncomfortable for me. But, it was only dress rehearsal and I attributed a lot of this to some pre-show jitters and lack of a full audience (there was only eight of us). As evident in the final scenes, Suski warmed up quickly and brought the lovable charm to his character I was missing at the beginning of the show.
And let’s not forget about Leah Marie Parker’s Sheila. She was loud, and over-the-top, and her accent reminded me of Fran Drescher, but she was playing Sheila afterall, and nailed it. Sheila was superficial and whiny and completely annoying with her obsession with plastic surgery, and only when she allows herself to let down her guard a little and really open up to the reasons behind the obsessions, does she become human. Well done, Leah.
Overall, I enjoyed “Skin Deep’ thoroughly, I only wish I caught opening night instead of dress rehearsal because the mix of energy between the actors and the audience is unbeatable, and in a small setting like the Whit, that is what I was missing with our audience of eight (besides the fact I felt almost guilty every time I laughed out loud and it echoed throughout the small theater space).
If you are looking for a laid-back, fun and laugh-out-loud Girls or Grown-ups Night Out, I highly recommend taking in “Skin Deep.” You won’t regret it. It is great community theater with a good group of actors. Oh, and did I mention it was appropriate for the teen set and probably a little younger?
“Skin Deep” plays Friday and Saturday, March 20 and 21, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, March 22, at 2 p.m. at the Whitney Center for the Arts, Wendell Ave., Pittsfield. Tickets are $15 general admission; $12 students and seniors; and $10 members. For more information go online to townplayers.org.