A smart, funny, and timely Broadway revival of “The Skin of Our Teeth” at the Lincoln Center Theater

This year marks the 125and anniversary of the birth of Thornton Wilder (April 17, 1897-December 7, 1975). To celebrate the lasting legacy of the Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright and novelist, Lincoln Center Theater presents a new Broadway revival of his monumental opus The skin of our teeth at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre. Updated with additional material by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (an octoroon), the timely production, refocused on the black experience in America, is led by 2020 Lincoln Center emerging artist Lileana Blain-Cruz (Maryse Seacole) in an entertaining, resonant Broadway debut.

Roslyn Ruff, Julian Robertson, James Vincent Meredith and Paige Gilbert. Photo by Juliette Cervantes.

Written by Wilder in 1942, at the height of World War II, the surreal/absurd allegory in three acts illuminates the endurance of humanity, repeatedly on the brink of extinction, from the Ice Age to the Flood biblical and the devastation of war, through the everyday life of the Antrobus family (the name derived from the Greek anthropos, or human) in the fictional town of Excelsior, NJ. With the current war in Ukraine, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the rise in violent crime, this is a show that speaks to our present times with humor and insight, while delivering the uplifting message that despite all the devastation and struggles, the human spirit is strong, life is worth living, the world will not end and we will survive the recurring cycles of history.

The time-traveling piece is full of intentional anachronisms, quotes from the great philosophers and the Bible (including the title), and direct meta-theatrical breakthroughs through the fourth wall, as well as a dysfunctional subplot. family, contributing to its innovation. complexity and insightful humor. Act I opens in the mid-century-style saloon of the Antrobus, as a huge glacier approaches and Ice Age cold and snow engulf them. The second act moves to the Atlantic City boardwalk in the Roaring Twenties, but relays the Old Testament story of the Flood and Noah’s Ark. And Act III is set back in the family living room, now destroyed by war, but with a view of the flourishing landscape behind, demonstrating the resilience of nature and the resurgence of life. Each part is preceded by a news broadcast projected onto a large background screen, featuring a mashup of disparate eras and events, in keeping with the show’s overall pan-temporal style.

Julian Robertson, Roslyn Ruff and Paige Gilbert. Photo credit: Julieta Cervantes.

Everything is masterfully conjured up by a top-notch creative team. Sets by Adam Rigg, projections by Hannah Wasileski, lighting by Yi Zhao, sound by Palmer Hefferan and costumes by Montana Levi Blanco go from dazzling, vivid and colorful to dark, dreary and broken to suit the moods of the acts and the action, while the over-the-top comedy of the first two parts gives way to the dramatic and mournful effects of war in the third. Of particular note are the large-scale puppets of dinosaurs and woolly mammoths, designed and made by James Ortiz and crafted by Jeremy Gallardo, Beau Thom, Alphonso Walker Jr. and Sarin Monae West, which irresistibly represent the Ice-Age family. cute and affectionate. pets.

And it’s all delivered engagingly by the cast of LCT, with an expansive and talented ensemble cast (Eunice Bae, Terry Bell, Ritisha Chakraborty, William DeMeritt, Avery Glymph, Donnetta Lavinia Grays, Noor Hamdi, Tyrone Mitchell Henderson, Maya Jackson, Anaseini Katoa, Cameron Keitt, Megan Lomax, Kathiamarice Lopez, Lindsay Rico, Julian Rozzell, Jr., Julyana Soelistyo, Phillip Taratula and Adrienne Wells, as well as Gallardo, Thom, Walker and West) providing excellent lead support. Their characters range from refugees in search of food and warmth during the ice age, to the strange inhabitants of boardwalk entertainment, to the house staff and production crew requested by the stage manager during an important meta aside. -theatrical to replace sick cast members (an original scene from Wilder’s story but oddly about today’s frequent positive COVID tests that shut down performances).

The business. Photo by Juliette Cervantes.

Under Blain-Cruz’s exuberant direction, the main cast give themselves over to frenzied performances parodying the zaniness of a sit-com, to the grim realities of war, the antipathy between father and son, and the necessity to learn from past mistakes, from history, and literature settle in Act III. James Vincent Meredith as the actively inventive and faithless Mr. Antrobus is more dedicated to his books and his creation of the wheel, alphabet, and mathematics for the advancement of knowledge in the first act, and to his position as president of the Fraternal Order of Mammals in the second, than he is for his wife and son. By comparison, Roslyn Ruff as Mrs. Antrobus provides the voice of control and authority in the household, with Paige Gilbert and Julian Robertson capturing the youth and rebellion of their children Gladys and Henry.

As their maid Sabina, who transforms into beauty queen/seductress Lilly Sabina in Act II, Gabby Beans turns to deliberately histrionic portrayals, prancing and hilariously posing, exaggerating her characters’ accents. , then breaking character and speaking in normal language. voice to the audience to express their dislike of the play, their inability to understand what is going on, and their refusal to say the offensive lines given to them, reassuring everyone that the world is not coming to an end. “People exaggerate,” she says – and she would know it! It’s an incisive example of the show’s sharp observant spirit. Rounding out the cast, Tony Award-winning Priscilla Lopez plays the bizarre fortune teller, who foretells disaster to come in Act II.

The skin of our teeth is long, dense and demanding, but the message is worth the investment of time and attention. There are age-old truths told in amusing ways, exposing the dangers of the world and the flaws of people, while reaffirming the endless cycles of life and the eternal hope of advancement.

Duration: Approximately 2h50, including a brief break and intermission.

The skin of our teeth is played until Sunday, May 29, 2022 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, 165 West 65and Street, New York. For tickets (priced at $49-225), call (212) 239-6200 or drop by in line. Everyone must present proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter the building and must wear a mask at all times inside.

Before you go, you can watch a montage of the production here:

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