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The Skin of Our Teeth Review

Saving the World

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The Skin of Our Teeth—A World of Change

(left to right) Steve Price as George Antrobus, Kathryn Rupers as Gladys (Act II) and Ryan Pesce as Henry (Act II)

Review by Judith M. Wilson

Photos by Robin Jackson

A lot can happen in 5,000 years, and we can only guess at how events, big and small, might have unfolded in the five millennia that humans have inhabited the earth. In writing The Skin of Our Teeth, currently running at the College of Marin’s James Dunn Theatre, Thornton Wilder made an attempt to explain the history of civilization, and the result is a unique and imaginative play, highlighting some of mankind’s great achievements as well as cataclysmic events. The play won a Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1943, and while it might seem to be a wide-ranging subject that would be difficult to grasp, he makes it accessible with his approach, which director Molly Noble describes as a look at the history of humanity through the small lens of the members of one family, who always manage to survive great disasters by the skin of their teeth. He includes farce, satire, comedy and high drama, and, adding another layer of complexity, he includes a play within a play, with the story of a theater company's challenges in putting on a production.

Steve Price plays George Antrobus, and he’s a versatile actor who tackles a wide range of roles with ease. This time, he’s an everyman with some impressive achievements, including the invention of the wheel, and he combines the seriousness of an inventor with the foolishness of a man who has his head turned by a beauty contest winner, delivering an engaging performance in some very funny scenes. Christine Macomber is Maggie, the level-headed wife, who’s seen plenty over the centuries and learned a thing or two about human nature along the way. Different actors portray Gladys and Henry in each act, and Gladys is the perfect child, while Henry has a habit of carrying a slingshot and throwing stones, in one of several Biblical reference in the play. Nina Point DuJour, a young actress, who attended Marin Oaks High School in Novato, gives a standout performance as Sabina, in a demanding role that has her going in and out of character as she makes references to the theatrical subplot. She also plays Lily Fairweather, the calculating beauty queen. Raysheina de Leon-Ruhs also turns in a fun performance as the Fortune Teller. Izzy Snow plays a mammoth, and Katherine Rupers plays a dinosaur, with costumes by Jake Pledger and Megan Mitchell.

 

 

(left to right) Izzy Snow as the Mammoth, Andy LeBuhn as Telegraph Boy, Katherine Rupers as the Dinosaur, Nina Point Dujour as Sabina

The family in the spotlight is the Antrobus family of Excelsior, New Jersey, which includes George and Maggie, who have been married for 5,000 years, their children Gladys and Henry and their maid Sabina. The play has three acts, and the first takes place as a huge sheet of ice approaches from the north, making the world colder and plunging it into the Ice Age. The second is set during the convention season in Atlantic City, where the Antrobus family is attending the Mammal Convention, when they suddenly face the threat of a great flood and have to come up with a way to save the world. Act III occurs at the end of a destructive war, which was timely when Wilder completed the play in 1942, because the United States had entered World War II less than a year before.

Steve Price plays George Antrobus, and he’s a versatile actor who tackles a wide range of roles with ease. This time, he’s an everyman with some impressive achievements, including the invention of the wheel, and he combines the seriousness of an inventor with the foolishness of a man who has his head turned by a beauty contest winner, delivering an engaging performance in some very funny scenes. Christine Macomber is Maggie, the level-headed wife, who’s seen plenty over the centuries and learned a thing or two about human nature along the way. Different actors portray Gladys and Henry in each act, and Gladys is the perfect child, while Henry has a habit of carrying a slingshot and throwing stones, in one of several Biblical reference in the play. Nina Point DuJour, a young actress, who attended Marin Oaks High School in Novato, gives a standout performance as Sabina, in a demanding role that has her going in and out of character as she makes references to the theatrical subplot. She also plays Lily Fairweather, the calculating beauty queen. Raysheina de Leon-Ruhs also turns in a fun performance as the Fortune Teller. Izzy Snow plays a mammoth, and Katherine Rupers plays a dinosaur, with costumes by Jake Pledger and Megan Mitchell.

Raysheina De Leon-Ruhs as the Fortune Teller

Steve Price as Mr. Antrobus and Christine Macomber as Mrs. Antrobus

Billie Cox did the sound, and in additional to sound effects, the play includes a large list of songs, including On the Boardwalk in Atlantic City by Dick Haymes, and The Unicorn by the Irish Rovers, which explains the absence of the mythical creatures aboard the ark.

Wilder takes an expansive view of humanity The Skin of Our Teeth, and he does it with a balanced hand, incorporating a variety of dramatic forms, while challenging the audience to think about some big questions, such as: How much responsibility do we have for others? Who would you save if you couldn’t save everyone and had to choose? Does war have any value? It’s a play with considerable depth, and with fine acting and production quality, it’s a satisfying experience.

The Skin of Our Teeth plays through Sunday, March 19, at the James Dunn Theatre, College of Marin, Performing Arts Building, corner of Sir Francis Drake Blvd. and Laurel. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. For tickets, go to brownpapertickets.com.