Review: ‘Skin Deep’ at the Old Opera House

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Skin Deep at the Old Opera House proves love comes in all shapes and sizes and the message is easily displayed with some outstanding performances from the small ensemble cast in this clever romantic comedy.

Ashley Snow and Micheal George. Photo by Adam Blackstock.
Ashley Snow and Micheal George. Photo by Adam Blackstock.

Written by Jon Lonoff and directed by Steven Brewer, Skin Deep features a blind date between loveable and awkward, full-figured Maureen Mulligan, played by Ashley Snow, and sweet but forthright Joseph Spinelli, played by Micheal George. Set up by Maureen’s quirky sister, Sheila, played by Jen George, and Sheila’s eccentric husband, Squire, played by Will Heyser-Paone, Maureen and Micheal must see if they can move past their appearances and their own hilarious self-defenses to reveal their true feelings for each other before it’s too late.

Ashley Snow was phenomenal as leading lady Maureen Mulligan, a devout Catholic dental assistant who struggles between her hilarious love for food and battle with body confidence issues. Her New York accent was very authentic and Snow had very sharp comedic timing and excellent facial expressions for many hilarious bits of business while alone onstage.

Jen George was outstanding as Maureen’s bossy, controlling sister, Shelia. George was delightfully bratty and totally in control as the meddlesome but caring sister who is more interested in outward appearances and plastic surgery.

Jen George and Will Heyser-Paone. Adam Blackstock.
Jen George and Will Heyser-Paone. Photo by Adam Blackstock.

Will Heyser-Paone was perfectly preppy and obnoxious as Shelia’s husband and Maureen’s brother-in-law, Squire Whiting, Jr. His scene opening Act II which featured a phone conversation while exercising was fantastically funny and Heyser-Paone also displayed his dramatic abilities in a bittersweet scene reflecting on what could have been with Ashley Snow’s character.

However, Micheal George truly steals the small ensemble show with his hilariously straightforward and often blurted out one liners as socially awkward blind date, Joseph Spinelli. His opening monologue while leaving a voice mail for Maureen was hysterically awkward and George forms an incredibly sweet and instantly relatable character. Snow and George displayed awesome romantic and comedic chemistry and their facial expressions during the first blind date were laugh out loud funny.

Much of the strength of the production comes from the exceptional script. Lonoff has written a wonderfully quirky and hilarious modern love story in an exceptionally witty and unexpected style. The excellent direction by Brewer highlights all of the quirky nuances and stretches out every awkward moment and uncomfortable pause for as long as possible, much like one would stretch saltwater taffy that Snow’s character, Maureen, would probably also delight in eating.

Lighting, designed by Travis Fouche, is a simple yet effective plot to show the passage of time and leaves the focus on the action onstage. Christine Brewer’s costumes are all modern day outfits which clearly define each character and display each character’s development throughout the show. Glenn Frail’s set is particularly impressive. As a single set show, the set has to be multifunctional and visually interesting, and the apartment set displays multiple levels and even features a functioning refrigerator to hold the various (real) food props, like ice cream, used throughout the show.

The cast: Micheal W George, Ashley Snow, Will Heyser-Paone, and Jennifer Donnelly George. Photo by Adam Blackstock.
The cast: Micheal W George, Ashley Snow, Will Heyser-Paone, and Jennifer Donnelly George. Photo by Adam Blackstock.

If you’re hungry for a smart and sweet comedy with witty writing and exceptional performances, do not miss Skin Deep at the Old Opera House.

Running Time: Two hours, with one 15-minute intermission.

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Skin Deep plays through May 1, 2016, at The Old Opera House Theatre Company – 204 North George Street, in Charles Town, West Virginia. For tickets, call the box office at (304) 725-4420.

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