There are shows that stand the test of time because their content remains relevant to audiences and there are shows that stand the test of time because they provide a great challenge for actors. The Skin of Our Teeth, which when presented in 1942 was a bit of an unusual novelty for its avant-garde like approach, is a show that seems to me to fall more into the second category. What was new and different with regard to style seems less impactful as a whole somehow today than the potential of individual performances do. Douglas Morrison Theatre’s treatment of this strange little piece is a good effort I think, but comes out more of a head scratcher to me in a lot of ways that a like/dislike.
I found myself feeling very much that the talent and their grasp of their characters really spanned the spectrum. On one end a lack of depth to some of the roles, somewhat shallow and amateurish with inconsistency in pacing and earnestness. On the other end, some very strong moments that came out of left field and left me thinking “oh, I get it, some more of that, please.”
The audience did find the takes to the audience, the commentary portions of the show, to be particularly entertaining, so while the political and satirical source material for the show may not have been driving home relevance, there are some sincere laughs that come from the breaking of that 4th wall. I would have really like to see more distinction in some cases between the “actors” and the “characters” myself, but judging by the crowd reaction, I was in the minority there.
The usual standards of tech from DMT, which normally set the bar high, certainly appeared simplified and less visually polished for this production. I couldn’t tell if that was intentional, so in my book the uncertainty counted as a slight negative. Clever staging and use of the space was a strong plus for this production, and the costumes were creative as well. DMT usually has great use of live, mostly original music, I didn’t feel though that in this case it added much to the overall vision or end result.
There is an admiration for and value in doing this piece and pieces like it. There may be a better approach to having this play succeed on a greater scale, but I’m really not sure the formula was working for this mounting of it. A suitably bizarre 3 ½ jewels out of 5 in the review tiara for an interesting, odd play done in a similarly interesting and odd way. The Skin of Our Teeth plays through June 14th at the Douglas Morrisson Theatre in Hayward.