by Lorie Lewis Ham
Last weekend Skin Deep opened at Good Company Players Second Space in Fresno. Skin Deep is a romantic comedy by Jon Lonoff, and this production stars Kristin Crase, David Chavarria, David Marinovich and Ashley Taylor.
According to director J. Daniel Herring this play is about a large, lovable, lonely-heart, named Maureen Mulligan who gives romance one last shot on a blind-date with sweet awkward Joseph Spinelli; she’s learned to pepper her speech with jokes to hide insecurities about her weight and appearance, while he’s almost dangerously forthright, saying everything that comes to his mind. They were set up on the date by Maureen’s sister Sheila and her husband Squire, who are having problems of their own. Sheila undergoes a non-stop series of cosmetic surgeries to hang onto the attractive and much-desired Squire, who may or may not have long ago held designs on Maureen, who introduced him to Sheila.
“I found the script to have a charming situation comedy style to it and that intrigued me,” said Herring as to why he wanted to direct this show. “I was drawn to the simple honest nature of the script as well. I have always enjoyed watching situation comedies and observing the directing and acting techniques used for portraying quick wit and humor. In addition, most situation comedies will at some point in time deal with thoughtful issues during their runs. I think Skin Deep possesses all of these elements.”
This is Herring’s directing debut with GCP. After four years of focusing on his work in the Theatre Arts Department at Fresno State, he decided to venture out into the larger Fresno theatre community and having seen several GCP productions he felt it was the right place for him. Herring is an associate professor in the department of theatre arts at Fresno State. “Dan [managing director of GCP] took time out from his busy schedule to see my work at Fresno State and graciously offered me the opportunity to submit my name as a director this season.”
Ashley Taylor is playing the part of the sister and was interested in being in Skin Deep because it deals with the issue of body image but not in a way that is preachy or depressing. “It’s a comedy, but that’s not to mean the issue is taken lightly—it’s just addressed in a fairly honest way,” said Taylor. Taylor also stated that she was excited and scared about the opportunity to try a non-musical for the first time. “I’m starting to learn that the roles that scare me are probably going to be some of the most exciting.”
Taylor has found Sheila to be an interesting character to tackle, because there are so many levels to her. “I think Sheila is flawed, to be sure, but there’s a lot of vulnerability to tap into, and there’s a lot of love too. She truly loves her family—especially her sister and her husband. The tricky part is that she thinks she knows what’s best for everyone, and that’s a source of some drama (and also some comedy). And as an added bonus, I get to have a lot of fun playing with makeup.”
As to the challenges of directing a show at a small space like Second Space, Herring feels it’s a perfect venue for this type of play because you want intimacy for both the characters and the audience. “The audience should feel as if they are right in the midst of the action so they can laugh along with the characters, but also feel the honest emotional moments as well.”
Skin Deep runs at Good Company Players’ 2nd Space Theatre at 928 E. Olive in Fresno until August 7th. Tickets are $16 general admission and $15 for students and seniors. For more information check out the Second Space theatre page here at KRL.