Buchanan Lecture Theatre, St Andrews, 28 April 2011
Rating: 3.5 / 5
Thornton (or ‘Thorton’ if you go by the playbill) Wilder’s Pulitzer winning play The Skin of Our Teeth is a dramatic endeavour as frustrating as it is brilliant. Directed by Suzanne Rooney and Lilee Coomer, it is the story of the Antrobus family and their maid Sabina (Elena Georgalla) and their struggles through an Ice Age, a biblical flood and war. The play functions on several levels; on one hand we are being shown the original first family, with Adam and Eve doing their best to discipline their unruly son Cain; on the other hand we have a typical New Jersey family: freezing and worried about the sea level rising. It all overlaps and leaves you dizzy trying to make sense of it: why are there dinosaurs and woolly mammoths again?
The fourth wall is repeatedly broken, allowing Georgalla to complain to the audience about what a terrible play she’s performing in. I was tempted, at first, to believe her. Yet The Skin of Our Teeth is more than an absurd melodrama rattling on about human suffering and the imperfectability of man. There is something special to it, and though it might take a copy of the Old Testament and a great deal of patience to discover, the search will hopefully not be in vain. The cast do a respectable job of keeping their characters constant in a world, and set, which is collapsing around them. In particular, Simon Lamb (Mr Antrobus), the head of the family, delivers his lines splendidly: deep with a southern twang. In the end the play leaves us with the Antrobus family remarkably unscathed by the disasters around them. The audience, or at least the few who I overheard discussing the play, left the theatre confused, puzzling over what they just saw. This is a great shame; for, like an unpolished gem, if you want to see it sparkle you have to work for it.
Photo by Alex Howarth