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The Skin of our Teeth
ornton Wilder's absurdist comedy, which premiered in 1942 and was influenced by everything from Joyce's Finnegan's Wake to the Marx Brothers and comic strips, continues to be both fascinating and prophetic more than 60 years later. Opening during the dark early days of World War II, the play shocked and bewildered audiences who were expecting something more uplifting or traditional from the author of the successful Our Town. Wilder, however, was more interested in the universality of the play's message than its timeliness. The story of the Antrobus family of suburban New Jersey, who face everything from Biblical floods to approaching glaciers, is of course the protracted tale of mankind, told in a zigzag burlesque style that ranges from mythology to slapstick. But perhaps more than any work of 20th century American theatre, this play remains edgy and controversial. No wonder that productions of the piece are popping up all over the country post-9/11. Theatricum Botanicum, under the skillful and playful direction of Ellen Geer, delivers Wilder's script with precision, affection, and artfulness. While Geer takes a fairly traditional approach to the text--both limited and freed by the outdoor setting--the fine acting and strong political undertones of the production make it fresh and beguiling. The acting is solid and inspired. Alan Blumenfeld delivers the right amount of bluster and pathos as Mr. Antrobus, while Katherine Griffith is crisp and pointedly fine as the long-suffering Mrs. Antrobus. Melora Marshall is a delightful, funny, and smart Sabina, who is as effective in character and out as is Marshall. Other fine performances include those of Willow Geer as daughter Gladys and Jeff Wiesen as son Henry. Earnestine Phillips is also outstanding in a cameo as the fortuneteller who wisely proclaims that it is easier to decipher the future than the past. In this era of chaos and absurdity, the message of Wilder's play is probably more pointed and forceful than at any other time in the past few decades. While mankind endures the vicissitudes of nature and history, and continues to strive in an almost absurd cycle of triumph and defeat, there is, in Wilder's view, a defiant, admirable futility to the whole endeavo
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