Story last updated at 9/16/2009 - 11:48 am
The theater can fall victim to illness as easily as any other industry. For this reason, last Sunday's performance of "The Skin of Our Teeth" was short one cast member. Nonetheless, Perseverance Theatre proved that the show can still go on, even in the peak of flu season. Had the audience not been informed of the absence, they would not have been the wiser, as the show went off without a hitch.
The theater's 2009-2010 season opener was written by Thornton Wilder over 60 years ago, but it focuses on the cycles of human existence by exploring themes that will never become outdated. The play follows the Antrobus family through trials, floods, lust and war from the time of the alphabet's invention to the end of World War II. But despite immeasurable pain and hardship, Mr. and Mrs. Antrobus and their children, Henry and Gladys, make up a charming quartet that seems to possess the same family values, both positive and negative, no matter in what era they find themselves.
Performed in three acts with two intermissions, the play runs about two and a half hours. Perhaps that's a long time to sit in a seat, but at no time during the performance did I wish the end near. I found myself at the end of the final act with a desire for more, at which point I was informed by Sabina, played by Christina Apathy, that the end of the play is not written yet.
This is the final of several interruptions from Apathy's character, who intentionally breaks character throughout the play to inject her opinions regarding scenes, lines and plot. "The Skin of Our Teeth" is, therefore, a play within a play. The concept is well executed with the help of Brandon Demery, who plays the Stage Manager tasked with the challenge of keeping Sabina on the script. While the concept of a play inside a play can potentially distract from the main plot if poorly presented, in this case it doesn't.
I remained engrossed in the Antrobus family's saga from their Stone Age beginning, complete with pets wooly mammoth and dinosaur, through fires and floods to wartime, at which point the family pets are long gone.
As a whole, the production is well planned and well conducted. The cast consists of many familiar faces, several of whom stood out to me as real stars. They transcend the act of simply reciting lines and truly live and breathe their roles.
Especially enjoyable is the work of Mary Erickson, who plays little Gladys Antrobus. Erickson embodies the art of simply being a little girl in her own world, not breaking character for a moment as she skips and daydreams around the stage, glued to "daddy" whenever he is present. Another favorite is Dan Reaume, whose brief minutes as Telegraph Boy start the play on a high note. Lastly, Lucas Hoiland breathes passion into his role as Henry Antrobus, a conflicted son who changes from little boy with no cares to a raging man who finds little desire to go on.
There is obviously a great deal of attention given to lighting and effects during several scenes, including thought given to cast shadows and other little details that can make anything more enjoyable to watch. The climax of special effects comes at the close of Act II during a momentary explosion of lights, boxes and bingo cards. It is so well choreographed that I would watch the whole play over just to see those 20 seconds again.
The use of several different stage levels creates a good sense of space in the theatre, resulting in surprises when actors suddenly appear from out of the floor or high above on a balcony.
Besides a Pulitzer Prize-winning script, first-class acting, and aesthetically pleasing set design, I recommend "The Skin of Our Teeth," for its ability to provoke laughter as well as serious contemplation.
"Living is a struggle," Sabina says to the audience during an escape from her main character. The script puts forth the idea that life has been a struggle since its beginning. Despite our modern technological advances we are, at our core, just as human as we've ever been, sometimes only getting on by the skin of our teeth.
"The Skin of Our Teeth" runs through Oct. 4 at Perseverance Theatre. For details and tickets, visit www.perseverancetheatre.org.