Sitting inside the Vortex Theatre waiting for the show to begin, the audience member, may not know what to expect: “Would this show prove to be like others at the Vortex?” “Will, the first actor enter in nothing but his ‘birthday suit’ and a smile?” Quite honestly this could make for an interesting stylistic choice for Skin of Our Teeth, but perhaps a little out there for a Thorton Wilder play. But, when the Announcer (C. Robert Stevens) crosses to his microphone donned in clothing from the 1940’s, the audience members’ minds may be ransacked momentarily with memories of crappy high school versions of Our Town.
But, once the sardonic tone of Steven’s voice hits the air, followed by the humorous facial gesticulations of Sabina (Amy Lewis), and a Wooly Mammoth (Joshua Bush) and a Dinosaur (Jessica Bacon) appear on set, the audience member quickly realizes, “this is no, Our Town.”
In fact, it is a complete deviation from Our Town. Within moments of the play’s onset, we realize that this will be one of those plays where we will want to grab a cup of coffee with a friend afterwards, wax philosophical, and perhaps discuss the finer details of the production.
Such finer details may include an over-all, solid performance by the whole cast. In a play that straddles between Realism and Absurdism with some allegorical elements thrown in for fun, in can be quite easy to make the characters two-dimensional. Although, the first Act may have started a bit out of sync as far as character interaction and timing, Mr. Antrobus, played by Michael Hankin, seemed to be the missing ingredient to this dilemma; once he busted through the front door of the set with a fire in his belly and a full commitment to character, the play became alive.
Yet, Mr. Hankin is not the only one who deserves a nod for a job well done. Various actors seemed to shine in various ways and places throughout the play. If one has not yet seen a comedy with Amy Lewis, who played the role of Sabina, he or she is missing out on some priceless facial expressions and comedic timing. Andrew Matthews’ pivotal transformation from young Henry with slingshot in hand, to a war-torn man toting a gun, was moving and poignant. It is nice to see growth of a character within a play, and Matthews did this flawlessly. Even those with smaller roles proved the saying, “there are no small roles, only small actors,” as each committed fully to his or her place in the production. This is especially true of the role of Stage Manager, played by Suzanne Balling, who was so committed to breaking the fourth wall that we as audience members may have actually thought for a moment that things had gone awry in this production.
One part of the production not to be overlooked is that of direction. As a Director, Norman Blumensaadt shines. His adept use of the entire stage from a variety of angles and dimensions and his choices of stunning visual spectacles, such as bicycles being ridden on stage, served as pleasant treats for the spectators’ eyes.
Overall, Different Stages’ production of The Skin of Our Teeth, is a definitely a piece with quality elements that one should enjoy in the company of a friend with whom you don’t mind grabbing that cup of coffee and sitting and chatting for awhile. Skin of Our Teeth runs Thursdays-Saturdays, November 13th–December 5th at 8pm at the Vortex, 2307 Manor Rd. Tickets start at $15. — written by Tracy Medberry