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Lake George Dinner Theatre Now Dinner And Theater

GLENS FALLS – The pandemic has revealed the qualities of resiliency and innovation in the arts and leisure industry. It is safe to say that in 2021 nothing is operating the same way it did in 2019.

This is especially true for restaurants and theaters. Everyone has made major adjustments in order to operate safely under COVID regulations.

Safety is, of course, the primary goal. However, every organization must concentrate on audience satisfaction and retaining the quality of the product the consumer expects. Whether it be theater under a tent or a meal served on a sidewalk, the final product must be acceptable to the customer. It takes a lot of planning and skilled execution.

Consider the adjustments for an organization that depends both on producing a play and combining it with food service. Jarel Davidov, the artistic director of Lake George Dinner Theatre, has been figuring out a plan to do that since he had to cancel the company’s 2020 season at the Holiday Inn-Turf in Lake George.

In a recent telephone interview, Davidov explained that the dinner theater has been operating at the Lake George hotel since 1974. It’s the smallest Equity dinner theater company in the country and indeed is one of the last of a nearly extinct form of entertainment. In the 1970s there were 147 professional dinner theater operations in the country. In 1999, only 9 professional companies remained in operation.

Davidov said he was determined not only to have a show in 2021, but to have a show that would reflect the quality and standards of 47 years as a dinner theater in the Lake George area.

The solution was a live stage production at the Charles Wood Theater in Glens Falls with a dining option at four Glens Falls restaurants before the performances.

Now until September 19, Lake George Dinner Theatre is offering the one-man show “Buyer and Cellar” evenings Thursdays through Saturday and matinees on Saturdays and Sundays. Four local restaurants, Farmacy Restobar, Morgan & Company, Downtown Social and Gourmet Café will have special deals for audience members. Reservations are available through the Wood Box Office when purchasing tickets for the show.

Though different from the traditional format, this procedure does go back to the origins of the genre. The original concept was called dinner and theater. A meal was offered in one room and the show in another. Indeed, historians claim that the original dinner and theater productions can be traced back to the medieval Madrigal Dinners which began the format of moving from a dining area to another space to be entertained.

However, the producers of the Madrigal Dinners didn’t have Actors’ Equity rules to contend with. Davidov speaks of the difficulty in finding a new space in which the demanded union amenities for Equity performers could be met. Since the Wood Theater was built by and still hosts the professional Adirondack Theatre Festival, the Equity demands are easily satisfied in the space.

The pot was sweetened when Emily Murphy, the Wood’s executive director, agreed to coproduce “Buyer & Cellar.” She has been influential in lining up the four high-quality restaurants and downtown business support for the production.

The theater’s recent experience in producing indoor theater is another plus. Because ATF just produced a safe summer season at the Wood, everyone is comfortable with the health factors within the space. Proof of vaccination will be required for entry and patrons are strongly urged to wear masks while inside.

Davidov says cast size was another critical element in producing this year. He said he read tons of one-person plays over the past few months. The one he couldn’t get out of his head was “Buyer and Cellar.” While reading it he visualized local professional actor Shane David Cameris in the lead role. Says Davidov, who is also directing the play, “Shane’s an inventive actor who is up to the challenge of creating seven totally different characters in the 90-minute play."

Cameris is a Siena College graduate who’s worked with many local companies including Capital Rep, Saratoga Shakespeare and Troy Foundry Theater. At Lake George Dinner Theatre, he performed in “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and “Lunch With Mrs. Baskin.”

“Buyer & Cellar” is a fictional story about an unemployed actor who is hired to be the caretaker for the reported memorabilia mall Barbara Streisand had built in the basement of her Malibu home. While there, the actor develops a unique relationship with the superstar, which is both funny and revealing. Davidov calls it “a funny, smart, work that has something to say about our adoration of celebrities and our need to be recognized as individuals.”

“Buyer and Cellar” is at the Wood Theater in Glens Falls through September 19. For tickets and information and reservations for dinner deals call the Wood Box Office 518-480-4878 or go to woodtheater.org.

Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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