Fresh Eyes on The Skin of Our Teeth: 4th Installment

SKIN FE photo

Fresh Eyes on Skin of Our Teeth: Jessica Barr, Lorraine Prince, and Katy Hubbard.
Owen Carey

Katy and Jessica were able to join us over the weekend for the first full run through of the play. For the last couple of weeks, rehearsals have been focussed on scene work, and this was the actors' first time to string it all together. It's funny that no matter how well we think we know the play after working on each scene, each moment, each bit of business in isolation, it's another story entirely when it's all strung together! Moments and actions come surprisingly quickly, and the actors must now find the overall rhythm of this marvelously shaggy story. Here are Katy's and Jessica's observations: 


The Skin of Our Teeth is a complex play.  Having attended four rehearsals now, I freely admit that I still don’t understand it all.  And apparently I’m not alone.  I’ve spoken to Fresh Eyes participants and actors as well, who have told me that they don’t quite “get it”.  So the question becomes, does Wilder mean for us to be confused, to feel slightly off kilter?  Are we supposed to just let it wash all over us, getting a general sense of the meaning of the play - to develop our own interpretation of what it might or might not mean?  Naturally, when viewing any art form, there is a certain amount of subjectivity involved.  People perceive music, theater, dance and literature in very different ways.  But I have the desire to come away from a theater performance feeling satisfied that I have formed an opinion based on my comprehension of the story.  I’m not quite there yet, but we still have preview night to go!

One thing that has become increasingly evident as I’ve watched more run throughs is how hilarious this work is.  Of course, it is partially due to Wilder’s deft writing skills, but big credit goes to the director for guiding the actors so well, and to the players for portraying their roles in such a comedic way.  Besides humor, there is much gravitas in this play.  Written 75 years ago, it is clearly still relevant today.  Act I deals with the topics of climate change and refugees.  Act II revolves around politics and infidelity.  

Act III takes place post-war in a post-apocalyptic setting.  Mr. Antrobus comes home from fighting in the war and tells his wife that he has lost the desire to begin again.  Referring to the promise that they made to each other when they married 5,000 years ago, she begs him to get it back - to find the will to go on and take care of his family.  The message for me is that everything old is new again.  The Antrobuses (who represent human kind) keep repeating the same mistakes and achieving the same triumphs over and over again throughout history.  Times may change, but human nature remains the same.



After what seemed like an amazingly short amount of time, all of the actors were off book for there first run through of the play. I could see that the actors had been developing the way they walked, their mannerisms, how they talked and their relationship to every other character on stage. Although I still have a lot of questions I wish I could ask the playwright, I understand its relevance today. My favorite ACT is ACT 3, because of the truthfulness and vulnerabilities that the characters show. Mr. Antrobus says, "Maggie, I've lost it. [..] The desire to begin again. To start building." Most stories that the human race is fascinated about are ones where tragedy strikes but a protagonist overcomes this and starts over. From the ice age, to the great flood, and finally war, the Antrobuses are the ultimate survivors. It's a story about refugees, and the idea that everyone has their own way of starting over. At the end of the war in ACT 3 we see that Mr. Antrobus is worn down. He's exhausted and tired. Starting a new life and a new way of living is incredibly hard. It's even more difficult when people, of today, believe that all refugees are rapists, killers, and terrorists. That's the platform Trump and so many others are running on. The idea that when people are in those positions, it is their fault. This play illustrates that anyone can quickly become lost and have nothing. But if you have the desire and drive to survive, you can continue