Choosing one show to present for three solid months at the most intimate professional dinner theatre in the country must be a daunting task. Nonetheless, once again, producer/director Terry Rabine has proven himself up to the job by tackling Norm Foster's THE LOVE LIST for Lake George Dinner Theatre's 45th season production. While much of LGDT's audience is comprised of tourists and bus tours, locals are cheating themselves out of a great deal if they don't consider making the short trek up to Exit 21 of the Northway.
As the play unfolds after a brief welcome by Rabine, Bill (Jarel Davidow) and Leon (Bill Saunders) have been friends, and former co-workers for many years. In his simple, Mission-oak furnished apartment, we learn that sweet, nerdy statistician Bill's wife left him 7 years prior and that Leon's wife has just revealed she's been having an affair for the past 7 years. This fact is devastating to him, since he proudly hasn't cheated on her in the last 2. Although one assumes these two events are related, they are not, so the double mention of a 7 year time span in as many minutes of dialogue is an odd and misleading choice.
For Bill's birthday, Leon has contracted with a dating service called Gotta Match, run by an old Gypsy woman, to find Bill the perfect mate. The two men discuss and argue their way through listing the top ten attributes for the perfect woman. No sooner do they complete the unmailed list, than she appears in the form of Justine (Rachel Cornish) who just happens to share a first name with the one woman Bill fell madly in love with in his youth, before her tragic death.
Although Bill finds Justine to be absolutely perfect, there is friction between her and Leon. In Act 2, as the men figure out the power of the top ten list and start amending it, mayhem ensues as the men erase one ill-chosen attribute after another and substitute each for what they think is a more desirable one. Immediately, each trait is then manifested in Justine's behavior and personality, with alarmingly over-the-top and unexpected results. The moral of the story is obviously "Be careful what you wish for.” While Act 1 is pleasant and fun, Act 2 is a roller-coaster ride of hilarity with the audience all but throwing their arms over their heads and whooping with each new plunge. The one constant on the top ten list is #4....don't ask. (I will never be able to get rid of the image of Justine miming a lit cigarette rolling down her front, and fully plan to re-ennact it at future parties!)
All three actors are up to the task, with Davidow being the most comfortable in his role; understandable, since he performed it in the NYC premiere. The role of Leon fits Bill Saunders like a glove, albeit a new one. At the top of the night, his half of the conversation sounded a bit more rehearsed, but this disappeared as the evening progressed and the rhythm was found. He's exactly the right person for the role. Guilderland native Rachel Cornish is perky and bright as Justine, and really shines in the second act when she is required to make constant, dramatic shifts to her mood, personality and behavior. My only issue with her performance is that she is almost shouting her lines right out of the starting gate. It's not necessary and adds a stridency that could really be useful in several moments of the action, but loses potency when it is the norm. Aside from that one point, there's no doubt her role has the most fun moments and she plays them to the fullest.
The versatile set by Anthony Krivitske offers plenty of options for Rabine's agile and varied staging and goes through its own makeover during the show. The lighting design by Rachel Budin serves the piece well and Patti Pawliczak's costumes are spot-on and highlight the personality of each character, although I doubt the picture-perfect spirit that is Justine would've owned a dress with mis-matched stripes on the rear seam...but I'm overzealously picking a nit on that one.
As the name of the company states, dinner is included in the ticket price, and therefore should be mentioned. Starting with a tasty simple caesar side salad (try saying that five times fast....a huge improvement over the rusty wedge of iceberg lettuce a few years past) entree choices include Broiled Salmon, Vegetarian Pasta, Beef and Pork. While my companion enjoyed the tender beef medallions with Bordelaise sauce (which had a nice minty tarragon zip), I had the Pork tenderloin with a country Dijon demi-glaze. While the glaze was little more than brown gravy with dijon mustard added (not enough to give it the zing it needed), it was fork-tender and tasty. Both were served with well-seasoned, roasted red potatoes and a forgettable medley of steamed vegetables. Dessert was a small wedge of excellent cheesecake.
Don't be afraid of entering Lake George at the height of the summer season. The Holiday Inn is on the hill before you even enter the downtown area, so getting in and out is a breeze, with plenty of on-site parking. (As a personal side note, my own career as a theatrical music director began at this theatre 35 years ago, when I was paid a whopping $10 per performance and our "green room" was a corner of the pool deck. LGDT has come a long way since then!!)
Of all the shows at LGDT over the years, THE LOVE LIST is definitely one of the strongest, most pleasant evenings I've spent there in a long time and I heartily recommend everyone add it to their own list (Groan....I know) of summer/autumn destinations .
THE LOVE LIST runs at the Lake George Dinner Theatre, located at the Lake George Holiday Inn Resort at 2223 State Rt. 9, now through October 20. Wed. thru Sat. evenings and Tues-Thurs (and select Saturdays) matinees. Dinner/lunch plus show is $60, show only for $35. Call (518) 668-5762, ext. 411 for reservations. For more info, www.lakegeorgedinnertheatre.com
ON THE WIRE