Went to see Skin of Our Teeth at Girl Friday Productions this weekend, and what a ride that was! I had forgotten how incredibly wonderful, and just how massive a show that is. Essentially the history of the world in three acts, with allegories that are both obtuse and acute. It’s a huge script, with a large cast, a ton of props, multiple sets….it’s no wonder that this 60-some-year-old play is rarely produced.
This show was very well directed, wonderfully performed and thoroughly enjoyable. Somehow there were themes and modern references that worked really well, including a Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State moment that wasn’t forced, played up or inserted – it just happens to be something that audience members might pick up from the script. And, of course, the line from which it gets its title couldn’t be more timely.
“We came through the depression by the skin of our teeth. One more tight squeeze like that and where will we be?”
I mean, come on! Essentially this whole play boils down to hope and optimism and the fight to not lose it or have it destroyed. If that’s not a theme for 2009, I don’t know what is.
I think, though that my favorite line from the show might be:
“We have two children…they haven’t always been the same two children…”
Of course, it’s not just the script that made this show so good. It’s a very, very strong ensemble, with some very talented actors, and they work together extremely well.
But I was thinking about why aren’t plays like this written anymore? Large ideas and unique imaginative settings and complicated plot lines. Ok…I guess the plot in this show couldn’t be called “complicated” per se, but there are numerous elements. Anyway…it occurred to me that “they” do, of course, write plays like this, and in fact, I recently saw a playwright who might be compared to Wilder, even if their styles differ. Tony Kushner. (I know! Again, with the Kushner.) But it’s kind of true, and mostly in the way that each writer writes of our current society ills and mores, and the consequences of our decisions, and uses large, over the top elements that effect and inform the characters of the play. One is a wall of ice or a world wide flood, while the other is an angel breaking through a ceiling, or a singing moon.
I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go along, but that’s the thought that struck me today. I imagine those two writers would have some truly interesting conversations.
In any case, I congratulate the director and producers for taking on such a massive, and timely, piece and for not only doing it justice, but for doing it so damn well.