Theater, at its best, can cut to the heart of the human experience with little more than a story to tell, the actors to perform it, and an audience who witnesses the journey. The Foolish Theatre Company’s world premiere of Skin Deep sets out to do just that with a touch of humor and a camp flair. Skin Deep, written by Rich Orloff, is about a middle-aged couple, George and Liz, from Ohio, who inherit The Godiva Inn, a clothing-optional resort in Key West, from George’s estranged brother, Roger. During the play, the couple find themselves questioning who they are, what they believe in, and the choices they have made along the way. The Inn’s staff includes Clark, the desk clerk who moonlights as a drag queen, and Jane, the janitor who moonlights as a dominatrix. The antagonist is Fred, who is the catalyst for change.
The play is deftly directed by Jeffrey C. Wolf and energetically performed by a cast of five. Both director and cast make ample use of the comedic script while leading toward a more serious turn of events and personal revelation. George, performed by William Tatlock Green, and Liz, performed by Dee Dee Friedman, capture the essence of mid-western values confronted with alternative life-styles and perceived difference.
These two issues are most flamboyantly personified in Clark, played by Robbie Sharpe. Sharpe’s performance elevates the character’s campy dialogue and dreams of being a diva to a character that one cares about. Misunderstanding and assumption are humorously played out in a running dialogue between Jane the janitor, performed by Mary Theresa Archbold, and the wife Liz. As Liz embraces the possibilities she sees in their new lives and begins to explore what it means to be female, Jane teaches her to change the oil on the couple’s car. Their conversations are laced with references that are misunderstood by George, leading to further personal conflict and tension for his character. Fred as the sleazy businessman, performed by Timothy Scott Harris, brings the conflict to a head.
Scenic designer Craig M. Napoliello evokes the Florida Keys with his use of white wicker furniture with floral print cushions set against a backdrop of green shutters and white drapes. Although the action of the play takes place only in the lobby of the Inn, the use of multiple locations for entrances and exits as well as actor focus provide a sense of the total inn and its environs. Costuming by Jonathan Knipscher provides not only a key to passing time but also insight to qualities about each character and the changing atmosphere of the Inn itself. Also of note are the very good choices for pre-show and between scene music designed by director Wolf.
The Foolish Theatre Company’s mission may be to entertain and amuse, but Skin Deep offers that and a little bit more. It is a confrontation between and challenge to definitions of normal told with humor, caring, and a small dash of glitter. The production is entertaining, but Skin Deep couples this with something a little deeper – our humanity and ability to change.