by Tony Annicone
Wilbury Theatre Group’s current production is the 1943 Pulitzer Prize winning play “The Skin of Our Teeth” by Thornton Wilder. It opened on Broadway on November 18, 1942 and ran for 355 performances. The show also written in 1942 is an allegory on the history of mankind, told through the story of one family. It is a mixture of contemporary and biblical events and employs a farcical style seen in Wilder’s “The Matchmaker” as well as the presentational style seen in his “Our Town.” The phrase used as the title comes from the King James Bible, Job 19:20 “My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth.” We meet the Antrobus family and their maid, Sabina who come from New Jersey. We barely escaped the depression by the skin of our teeth exclaims Sabina as Wilder works the title of the show into the dialogue. We also meet a woolly mammoth and a dinosaur in their home which helps give the show a theatrical mixture of farce, absurdism, satire and burlesque.
The first act takes place during an impending ice age, in the second act, George becomes the President of the Fraternal Order of Mammals and the end of the world approaches once again. The first two acts are more farcical in nature because in the third act, the family emerges from a bunker after a seven year war and things become more somber and serious. It also displays the more things change the more they stay the same. We have to keep on living no matter the odds stacked against us. Josh Short uses every inch of space in his new theatre to stage this show with the performers whirling all around the audience. He infuses his large 15 member cast with an enormous amount of energy and obtains splendid performances from them.
Josh gives each performer their moment to shine in this show. He also gives them some clever shtick to keep your attention from start to finish. Melissa Penick is a hoot as Sabina who speaks directly to the audience and at times explains this section of the show should be omitted because it will offend certain people in the audience. She plays this sexy vamp wonderfully and wins many laughs along the way. Melissa also delivers the poignant message that the ending of this show hasn’t been written yet because it is the story of mankind still being told. Tom Roberts and Sarah Leach do topnotch work as Mr. and Mrs. Antrobus with their huge amount of dialogue. They interact well with each other and the whole cast. Also impressive is David Tessier as the announcer and then becomes the smarmy fortuneteller in Act 2. He strolls through the audience reading palms and declaring that impending doom is approaching. David also sings “Excitable Boy” and “For My Next Trick.”
Another dynamite vocalist is Shannon Hartman who plays Gladys Antrobus. She opens the third act with the gut wrenching “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” which sets the mood for the dramatic events to come. So for a wild and crazy show that suddenly becomes meaningful and dramatic by reflecting on contemporary problems that still exist in 2018, be sure to catch “The Skin of Our Teeth” by the Wilbury Theatre Group. The show has been selling out so it has been extended an extra weekend till February 11.
THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH (18 January to 11 February)
Wilbury Theatre Group, 40 Sonoma Court, Providence, RI
1(401)400-7100 or www.thewilburygroup.org