There have been any number of plays and television shows whose humor has been derived from the annoying, offensive "fat joke", usually aimed at, and at the expense of, a supposedly oversized woman. Until HAIRSPRAY, that the "fat chick" would be a loser and remain so throughout the show was a normal expectation. Thinner audience members would laugh heartily while all size-14-and-up women in the audience would pull their wraps tightly around them. Thanks to John Waters, however, the world finally learned that the fat girl could be the star, get the guy, and succeed in life - just as actually has been known to happen in the real world.
Jon Lonoff realized the same thing, and while at WorkShop Theater Company developed a gentle poke at real life in Queens and Brooklyn called SKIN DEEP, currently at Rainbow Dinner Theatre, directed by Cynthia and David DiSavino, both of whom we'll forgive for being quite thin, just for putting on this production, presented under Rainbow's Working Title of HAVE I GOT A GIRL FOR YOU. The play, despite its title, mustn't be confused with comedian Josh Mesnick's one-man show by that name - they're very different, and this show is the one that's not about working the phones for an escort agency.
Maureen Mulligan, played with disarming accuracy by Dianne Fussaro, is a large woman, sister of Sheila (Rachel Stargel), a presumably better-looking one who holds age and sag at bay with repeated applications of increasingly less successful plastic surgery. Sheila and her husband, attorney Squire (Daniel Stargel), need to have Maureen fixed up with a date for a niece's wedding, whether she wants one or not... and she doesn't. But does she really not want a date, or has she simply, and unfortunately, given up on finding a decent guy she can like, who won't be turned off by her looks?
Enter Joe Spinelli, played by Rainbow veteran Scott Russell, who owns a restaurant with his brother and who isn't a prize in his own eyes any more than Maureen is in hers. He's a guy who schleps through life with his shirt not quite pressed, with holes in his socks, with an ex-girlfriend who lied when she said the baby was his... and with eyes that light up on the spot at Maureen's smile, at her eyes, and at her legs, as well as at her jokes. He thinks Maureen's nothing short of perfect when he meets her at their set-up pre-wedding blind date, which is all Maureen needs to be sure he's just trying to hurt her.
Fussaro and Russell work perfectly on stage as Maureen and Joe, she a nervous mass of defenses and put-downs, he a loose cannon likely to say exactly what he thinks, and in the worst way possible. Each thinks they're no prize, while seeing, whether they want to or not, that the other is exactly what they're looking for. If two actors can be said to have chemistry, these two do. The ruined awkward coffee date that makes up the bulk of Act One is thoroughly believable to anyone who's met someone they liked under the worst possible circumstances. Fussaro is every woman who's resorted to the tub of ice cream in the freezer as emotional therapy; Russell is every man who's still talking even though he's already decided that nothing he can say will be the right thing. Together, they have the audience wondering when the two will realize that the fix-up Maureen's relatives made in desperation without even meeting Joe is the luckiest thing that's ever happened to either of them.
As Maureen says, Saint Apollonia (the patron saint of dentists - Maureen works in a dental office) does answer her prayers, but never the way she expects. Here the unexpected eventually becomes the perfect.
Maureen's sister and brother-in-law, the Whitings (married in real life as well as on stage) are the contrast to Maureen and Joe. A lawyer and his plastic-surgery-addicted wife, trying desperately to work at their marriage, they need to spend more time with each other than Sheila spends on trying to remake her sister. Squire knew Maureen long before she introduced him to Sheila, and their long-term friendship becomes suspect to Sheila during the show, as it also does to Joe, despite its utter innocence. As Sheila notes, and as many in the audience will cheer, it's the big girl who has the men rallying to her, not the so-called pretty one. Yet all's well in the end, no one is seriously hurt, and egos are mostly salvaged.
And yes, folks, the big girl wins. The scruffy guy wins. And the yuppie couple might just win, too. This is kinder, gentler comedy that still manages to be hysterically funny, and to leave an audience feeling just that much better than when they walked in.