LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The Lake George Holiday Inn Resort has a secret hiding in its accommodating walls. A ballroom at the back end of the hotel is more than one might expect when walking through the doors. Once they enter, they’ll find a table waiting for them, just in time for the show.
Lake George Dinner Theater returns to the Holiday Inn this month. In a 90-capacity ballroom with stage lights, sound equipment and seating surrounding a stage on three sides, two New York City-based actors will tell a story of love, longing and humor at a video store on New Year’s Eve, in a production of the Jack Neary play “First Night.”
“Originally on our schedule, we were looking to do ‘Shear Madness,’ a show that actually originated here at the dinner theater in 1978,” said director Jarel Davidow. “Because of COVID, it was too big a show with too many risks involved, so I wanted to downsize to doing a smaller show. With (‘First Night’) being just a two-hander, it was a bit more manageable.”
The story goes like this: Washed-up video store employee Danny Fleming (Jay DeYonker) is working his job at a video store on New Year’s Eve, 1985, when in walks his old flame Meredith O’Connor (Molly Bader). The two have plenty to catch up on – including O’Conner’s new identity as Sister Meredith-Louise, having spent 20 years as a nun. From there, a romance blooms over the course of a single strange New Years’ Eve in a mid-’80s video store.
The theater’s season starts this Thursday, July 21, running until Oct. 8. DeYonker and Bader have acted on screen and stage, but say there’s something unique about being the only two sharing the space and audience.
“There’s nowhere to hide,” said DeYonker. “This script is fun because there’s a lot of meat in it. You’re just out there, and there’s a lot that relies on both of our characters.”
Bader recently appeared in a performance of “The 39 Steps” at Long Island’s Strongbox Theater. DeYonker’s recent big credit is on screen, rather than stage, acting in the indie film “Triple Threat,” a story about three friends who write a play and take it to Broadway.
Both actors have mostly worked around New York City and New Jersey, but like with any career, they go where the work is. In the last two weeks of rehearsal, both have mostly stayed up in Lake George, rather than commuting to the city and back. They haven’t had much time to see the Adirondack sights yet, but even so, performing in the North Country feels like a vacation.
“It’s not atypical to look at regional opportunities,” said Bader. “I will say that the location is a perk in this case, which isn’t the case for every regional theater job.”
This year’s dinner theater season is the first that Lake George Dinner Theater has brought to the Holiday Inn since 2019. The troupe has operated there since its founding in the 1970s, running the smallest Actors Equity Association theater in the country, seating around 90 people.
The fun had to stop in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic made in-person audience gatherings impossible. In 2021, the hotel still wasn’t viable, but enough restrictions lifted around other venues that the company was able to make a temporary move to the Charles R. Wood Theater in downtown Glens Falls, putting on the one-man show “Buyer and Seller.” Even now, the actors come in wearing masks until they get onstage, to stick with Equity rules.
The return to the stage brings with it a new collaboration. Set designer James Noone came on to create the video store itself, with shelves strategically slanted in front of a storefront window that becomes a backdrop to the show. The theater is wide; more tables will be set up on the sides of the stage than directly in front, which gives the director a lot to think about when making sure that everybody gets the full experience.
“The most different thing about a show like this is managing the sight lines,” said Davidow. “It’s almost like doing theater in The Round, making sure that the people all the way stage left get just as good a show as the people who are all the way stage right, and the people sitting stage center.”
The Lake George Dinner Theater season starts on Thursday, July 21. Dinner shows run Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with 6 p.m. seating and a 7:30 p.m. show. Luncheon shows run Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, with seating at 11:30 a.m. and curtain at 1 p.m. Tickets are on sale now.