‘The Skin of Our Teeth’ Broadway Star’s Greatest Madness, Worms, and Dinosaurs

Sometimes, more is more, and is proud of it. There’s nothing else on Broadway this season like the multi-sensory bath that is home to the Lincoln Center Theater production of Thornton Wilder. Our teeth (opens tonight through May 29), directed with a free-spirited naughty epic by Lileana Blain-Cruz.

This is a Pulitzer Prize-winning play, a comedy first produced on stage in 1942, coinciding with Wilder’s 125th birthday (he died in 1975), and rarely performed until so many quirks – play within a play, characters talking to us as actors playing them, dinosaurs to cheer on – seem like add-ons modern. But Wilder wrote this tumultuous marriage of absurdity, philosophy, and apocalypse as it were. Some additional material in this production comes from Branden Jacobs-Jenkins.

The Antrobus family lives in a 5,000-year span of history, which means an Ice Age raging outside their early 20th-century home in the fictional town of Excelsior, New Jersey. A giant dinosaur and woolly mammoth occupy the house (beautiful creations of James Ortiz), munching on plants and inviting caresses. Jeremy Gallardo, Beau Thom, Alphonso Walker Jr. and Sarin Monae West are the puppeteers responsible for the on-stage movements of these creations. The dinosaur is magical, and the mammoth will bring out the best Fraggle Rock memory.

It’s Sabina, Antrobus’ maid (Gabby Beans, fierce and funny, worthy of an award nomination) who soon makes it clear that she, as the actor who plays her, isn’t buying any what is being displayed. before our eyes. This isn’t the first time Sabina has stepped out of the action scene as her lead character, or the action ceases on its own, as we’re transported into a play that, like the movie, seems pretty cool. precarious. In the character, she cleans up and worries about the safe arrival of patriarch George Antrobus (James Vincent Meredith) home. Poor people flocked to their homes, including those calling themselves Moses and Homer.

In the second act, we’re walking the Atlantic City boardwalk, at once so gorgeous and colorful you can almost smell the saltwater, before the sky darkens and they We await the approach of a terrifying sonic storm, culminating in the formation of Noah’s Ark.

In the final part of the play is the return to the living room of the Antrobus family home, now a burnt and exploding husk after the end of a seven-year war. Sadly, dinosaurs and mammoths were only in there for one act. This reviewer has wished for them to come back in vain. (Speaking of time travel, the original 1942 cast included Montgomery Clift and Tallulah Bankhead, if anyone wants to teleport with me to that point in time.)


(l to r) Roslyn Ruff (Maggie Antrobus), Julian Robertson (Henry Antrobus), James Vincent Meredith (George Antrobus), and Paige Gilbert (Gladys Antrobus) in “The Skin of Our Teeth.”

Julieta Cervantes

At Lincoln Center, Roslyn Ruff plays Maggie Antrobus, an elegant, absent-minded hostess (great costume by Montana Levi Blanco) who refuses to care about any of the chaos raging. around yourself. George is a caring patriarch, but also a fearsome man, and a capable leader of the “Ancient and Honorable Mammal Society, Division of Man,” to which he is about to be sworn in. took office as president. Gladys (Paige Gilbert) and Henry (Julian Robertson) are stuck between childhood and adulthood, until they are finally almost parents, and the other is a victim of war determined to kill their father. surname. (Earlier we learned that Henry was called Cain, and killed his brother; and so perhaps George and Maggie were supposed to be Adam and Eve, the parents of the time-traveling world.)

During the Boardwalk, Sabina transforms from a security maid and custodian of the hysterical family to a beauty queen in disguise who wants to destroy Antrobus’ marriage, before her third act switch Become a sober storyteller and restore family unity.

The play has a similar divide between riot comedy and depth-seeking drama — the war-scarred third act has no point in going down but down. But even towards the end, the play stops itself prematurely at the start of the gloom to introduce us to new actors, because others have been accused of food poisoning. Wilder likes to pin his own seriousness.

We’re not sure why certain things happen in the play. The three settings are lost in time intervals and their own definitions of time. But the play repeats over and over the idea that no matter what era we are in, the apocalypse is near, or is being experienced, or has just come into being – so what’s next?


The Atlantic City boardwalk scene from “The Skin of Our Teeth.”

Julieta Cervantes

What matters is that the Antrobus family is Black, as Blain-Cruz told the New York Times: “Questioning human survival into a Black family only raises so much money, because we do. felt that precariousness for so long, and we still feel it today. It’s not, ‘I’ll make it?’ Literally, ‘Can we survive all these never-ending pressures?’ It feels really powerful at this point – that this family can contain those emotions and that pain in such a specific way that it’s become commonplace again when we’re all together. question his survival. “

Beans-as-Sabina made it clear that she found what she was asked to do completely absurd. Of course, no one lives 5,000 years. Of course, a family living at 20order America also couldn’t live in an Ice Age with dinosaurs roaming around the house. But still, even without the opt-out clause that Sabina/Beans offers, we’re still leaning towards the absurdity and depth below.

Adam Riggs’ design is at its best this Broadway season. The mid-century self-destruct home, the boardwalk is gorgeous and includes an active, truly fun slide, and, finally, a sort of woodland that dominates the postwar home.

When Blain-Cruz and her company provide a feast for the mind and the eyes, philosophically, the play becomes denser and richer in its three-hour span. We see the devastation of war on a global scale and betrayal in one family. We see destruction, and hedonism. There is temptation, and exhaustion. There is an attempt to maintain order, and anarchy. And there is nature, always there — frozen, in full bloom, wild, unclean, yet enduring like an anti-aging family.

Mrs. Antrobus gives a powerful speech in defense of family life (which to the modern ear sounds like the prelude to a manifesto for bigotry), and it is worth noting that in For 5,000 years, the family unit, beaten and beaten, endured all the atrocities of all time. When a fortune teller (Priscilla Lopez) shows up on the boardwalk, she’s not an apocalyptic parody of so many other plays and movies, but someone exhausted with nonsense. of man seeking her advice.

This play is a storm of words and images, and as Sabina tells us throughout, understand it or not understand it, and you do. But, just as the play is a test, so is the world history it outlines. The Antrobuses survived it all, violating all laws of nature and biology — and so, Wilder seemed to be saying, their best qualities (loyalty, courage, just doing and continue) can also be what sustains us. That, and also has a dinosaur as a pet. ‘The Skin of Our Teeth’ Broadway Star’s Greatest Madness, Worms, and Dinosaurs


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