With a whirlwind of huge time jumps, religious allegory and actor-audience interaction, The Skin of Our Teeth is one of those plays that keep you thinking long after the curtain has closed and everyone has gone home. And while I still find it hard to put into words what the story means on a personal level, I am certain that this is a play with a message that could not be better suited for the times. Running at Constellation Theatre until February 11, The Skin of Our Teeth was written by Thornton Wilder and has been directed by Helen Hayes award winner Mary Hall Surface for this production.
The play follows the story of the Antrobus family—husband George (Steven Carpenter), wife Maggie (Lolita Marie), children Henry (Dallas Tolentino) and Gladys (Malinda Kathleen Reese) and their maid Sabina (the fantastic Tonya Beckman)—in good times and bad and across vast time shifts. And I mean vast—the scenes range from the beginning of an Ice Age, to the Atlantic City boardwalk to a post-apocalyptic bomb shelter.
How can these times all be connected? Well the Antrobus’s are very old… George and Maggie have been married for 5,000 years to be exact. But they are simply your average family living in a New Jersey suburb, managing to survive all these Earth-altering events by… wait for it… the skin of their teeth.
And despite an unusual storyline and being written by Wilder almost 80 years ago, certain elements of the story may as well have been written for our modern era. Quotes from Maggie could be said by today’s feminists: “I have a letter…and in the letter is written all the things that a woman knows. It’s never been told to any man and it’s never been told to any woman, and if it finds its destination, a new time will come. We’re not what books and plays say we are. We’re not what advertisements say we are.”
Other’s talk about how in times of hardship, we must go on no matter what: “Do I have to explain to you what everybody else already knows – everybody who keeps a home going? Do I have to say what nobody should ever have to say, because they can read it in each other’s eyes? Now listen to me: I could live for seventy years in a cellar making soup out of grass and bark, without ever doubting that this world has work to do and will do it?”
While somewhat of a challenge to describe on paper, The Skin of Our Teeth adds up in person and is truly a funny, moving story that proves just how much the human spirit can endure. Constellation Theatre’s Source Theatre proved a great stage to host the show as its semi-circular stage allowed for wonderfully unique set designs and an intimate setting let the audience experience the full impact of emotions flowing across the stage. The unique characters and wildly imaginative storyline will truly stay with you long after the play is over, and as Sabina says to the audience at the end, the show doesn’t end with the curtain call; we have a long way to go and the end hasn’t been written yet.
Catch The Skin of Our Teeth at the Constellation Theatre Company’s Source Theatre, running through February 11, 2018. Learn more here.
Constellation Theatre Company’s Source Theatre: 1835 14th St. NW, DC; 202-204-7741; www.constellationtheatre.org