LAKE GEORGE – There is plenty of theater available in the area and a wealth of good restaurants.
Lake Theatre in Lake George is unique in that it offers both a good meal and a pleasant play. It employs professional actors who are members of Actor’s Equity, and is one of the smallest theaters in the country that can make that boast.
It a badge of honor for the troupe that you will not find tired, old warhorse comedies on their schedule. This summer’s production is a sweet comedy-romance “Jerry Finnegan’s Sister” by Jack Neary.
Lake Theatre is proud that its stage at the Holiday Inn Resort in Lake George is a Neil Simon-free zone, but is commercially oriented enough to credit that their fall show “The Long Weekend,” is written by Norm Foster, and they quickly point out that Foster is known as the Canadian Neil Simon. I suppose being a dinner theater, it’s OK to have your cake and eat it too.
The irony of it all is that “Jerry Finnegan’s Sister” could use a lot of Neil Simon’s comedy and wisecracks. It’s a sweet and often charming piece that even at under two hours, including an intermission is too long for its premise. Some of Simon’s wisecracks might help the fragile story.
The idea is that Brian has had a crush on his best friend’s sister since she was 7 years old. Over the years, that crush morphed into a love that went unspoken. When Brian is told Beth is about to marry it triggers a trip down memory lane. Through flashbacks, he remembers all the times he failed to declare himself.
We visit the pair starting when they first meet and see them as they grow up. It’s an innocent time as the two establish a friendship that will bond them forever. The early scenes are fun and establish the characters as decent, caring people.
In high school, Beth blossoms into a beautiful and smart young woman. Brian remains tongue-tied and resentful of her many boyfriends. You can still laugh at Brian’s uncomfortable position because he is at least self-aware of his limitations. Too, we are starting to share his affection for Beth whose loveliness adds to the aura of her being unattainable.
The pattern continues through college, except by now Brian’s behavior is becoming frustrating. One begins to resent his passive-aggressive behavior and wonders why Beth stills prods Brian to declare his obvious affection for her. Though we never dislike Brian, it’s easy to stop rooting for him.
The repetitive material is redeemed by two tender performances. Thankfully, Evan Maltby and Megan Dorn are able to keep the characters sweet and find a connection between the two characters that makes some sense as to how their unacknowledged love could be so durable. Judging by the bursts of laughter and sighs of approval from the audience at play’s end, “Jerry Finnegan’s Sister” has found its niche at Lake Theatre.
But theater is only half the experience at Lake Theatre. The food is terrific and ideal as a prelude to a light-hearted, easy to digest play. There is a choice of four entrees. I had the Broiled Atlantic Salmon with a lemon-dill Hollandaise. I hesitate to call the dish gourmet, but it compares favorably with any salmon I’ve had in local restaurants.
Companion felt even more positive about her Vegetarian Lasagna. She declared it delicious, even though she was delighted that it was served with a delicious red sauce. Among the tasty ingredients were spinach, string beans and zucchini. Companion, who has an Italian heritage, gave the dish the ultimate praise, saying, "I have never enjoyed lasagna more."
All meals are served with a good salad, rolls, roasted potatoes and vegetables. The dessert is cheesecake, accompanied by coffee or tea. The service is excellent. We hit heavy traffic on the Northway forcing us to arrive very late for a matinee performance. The serving staff stepped up delivering our preordered meal efficiently and without making us feel rushed. It was some of the best service I’ve had in a long time.
Also available are Medallions of Beef with Bordelaise sauce and Seared & Roasted Pork Tenderloin, with a honey mustard demiglaze. The latter is on my radar for the fall show.
“Jerry Finnegan’s Sister” continues in Lake George through September 1. There are matinee shows with dinner starting at 11:30 am on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. There are 8 p.m. evening shows on Friday and Saturday, with dinner served at 8 p.m. This was the first time I’ve attended a 1 p.m. show at the Holiday Inn Resort and I might never do evenings again. Tickets and information at 518-668-5762 ext. 411 or laketheatreproductions.com
Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.
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