The Lake George Dinner Theatre began more than forty years ago as a producer of light, summer stock. Over the years, it has presented entertaining but predictable fare to an increasingly aging audience, usually delivered to the door in motor coaches.
Three years ago, actor and director Terry Rabine purchased the business, fully aware that while he could ill-afford to lose the tour bus trade, the Lake George Dinner Theatre required new energy, more sophisticated shows and new audiences if it was to survive.
This year’s production, Our Son’s Wedding, may well mark the re-birth of the Lake George Dinner Theatre.
A comedy that’s nearly flawless in its construction and execution, Our Son’s Wedding is what every Dinner Theatre production is supposed to be: well-crafted, fast-paced entertainment after a perfectly fine dinner.
Our Son’s Wedding, however, also features one of the best casts ever seen in Lake George.
And the play itself, while respecting and mining all the conventions of a two-act comedy, is a far more thoughtful piece than any heretofore presented on the Dinner Theatre’s stage.
Whether you find the ostensible subject matter – the pending marriage of two gay men – objectionable or a welcome and belated nod by a local, mainstream entertainment venue toward 21st century realities, will probably depend upon your politics.
But the theme of the play, and the issues that the playwright, Donna DiMatteo, obviously wants to explore, are far more universal and timeless than contemporary attitudes toward homosexuality.
Even the class, social and ethnic fault lines that still demarcate American society, and which are also exploited for comic effect, are ultimately less important to DiMatteo than family bonds, especially the love parents naturally feel for their children.
Mary, played by Marina Re, and Angelo, played by Paul D’Amato, travel from the Bronx to Boston to attend their son’s wedding. They’re staying at the Ritz-Carleton, which is meant to stand in for all posh hotels and where Angelo is painfully uncomfortable until he can divert himself with the bathroom’s plumbing, his particular field of expertise.
Mary’s experience and observations have widened her horizons far further than her husband’s; she’s noticed enough strange things among her own family and neighbors to know that ‘normal’ is a relative term.
Nevertheless, even she describes their trip as a visit “to a foreign country, where we don’t even speak the friggin’ language.”
That foreign country is not simply a hotel in Boston; it’s every world they’re unfamiliar with, including that of their son’s.
Marina Re and Paul D’Amato are pleasures to watch. One indication of the skills of Marina Re, who created the role of Mary at Gloucester Stage Company, is the fact that she is never upstaged by D’Amato.
There’s a reason why D’Amato is still famous for his supporting role in Slap Shot, the 1977 Paul Newman movie that’s still shown on every high school hockey team’s away-game bus trips. He has a big personality, one that can command a screen and a stage and certainly a room the size of the Dinner Theatre at the Holiday Inn.
But when required, D’Amato can limit the force of his character’s own outsized personality; it’s a calibration of voice, gesture and even posture. When we learn that the bullish Angelo is no less reflective than Mary, it comes not as a surprise but as a delayed recognition.
Mick Bleyer plays Michael as someone who is charming but vulnerable; his vulnerability
and the wish to protect him unite not only Mary and Angelo, but Mary and Angelo and the steady David, played by Eric Rasmussen.
Our Son’s Wedding will be performed every evening Wednesday through Saturday until October 14.
Anyone who’s become a supporter of the Adirondack Theatre Festival, the Lake George Theater Lab and Wrightstage in recent years owes the Lake George Dinner Theater another chance. With that kind of support, Rabine could take the Dinner Theatre in any number of unpredictable directions.
Photo: Paul D’Amato and Marina Re, courtesy of Lake George Dinner Theatre
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