Theatre review: “Tropical Heat” and “Skin Deep” might leave you with conflicting views on plays

From the July 17, 2014 edition

In Rich Orloff’s “Skin Deep,” Liz Drummond, the self-described “completely aghast, slightly intrigued” Ohioan visiting Key West with her husband George, can hold two contradictory thoughts in her mind simultaneously. See the pair of Orloff comedies that Evolution Theatre Company is presenting under the tag “The Pride Plays” and you may find yourself in the same position.

In “Skin Deep,” Liz and George (Mony Carpenter and Tom Shafer) have inherited the clothing-optional Godiva Inn from George’s estranged and recently deceased brother Roger and are checking out its prospects. Incurious George envisions transforming it into a family-friendly resort. But the Inn and its characters grow on Liz and open her receptive mind. “Skin Deep” travels an expected path toward George’s enlightenment, but is punctuated by insightful punch lines and sparked by some spunky performances.

In contradiction, Orloff’s “Tropical Heat” parodies the 1932 Joan Crawford film “Rain,” based on the W. Somerset Maugham short story “Miss Thompson.” In “Heat,” Christian missionary Reverend James Robertson (David Vargo) succumbs to the charms of the “unlicensed physical therapist” Moxie Hart (Mark Phillips Schwamberger). As predictable as “Skin Deep” but with more labored performances, “Heat” is notable mainly for its artful obliqueness in discussing sex. Its parade of double entendres is rivaled only by its astonishing arrays of alliteration. Otherwise, the comedy might more properly be entitled “Tropical Tepidness.”

So see the two rotating “Pride Plays” and you may find yourself, like Liz in “Skin Deep,” entertaining simultaneously contradictory views of playwright Orloff and of Evolution Theatre.

Photo caption: Scott Risner (Strawberry), Will Smith (Fred) in Evolution Theatre Company's production of “Skin Deep” by Rich Orloff.

Photo courtesy of Evolution Theatre Company