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December 07, 1987 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 1987-12-07

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ARTS
The Michigan Daily Monday, December 7, 1987

Page 7

'Skin'

show:

Classic

performance

By Jennifer Kohn
The University Players' production of The
Skin of Our Teeth, which was performed last
weekend, was an aesthetically and dramatically
fascinating production. The play was written in
1942 by Pulitzer prize winning playwright
Thornton Wilder. In its time the play received
much acclaim; as time has passed its place in
contemporary American theatre has waned, but
its quality has not. 45 years after this play's
original production, the distance of time has not
significantly changed meaning to be divined from
the drama.
Skin of Our Teeth begins as a newsreel, a
common sight to the 1942 theatre-goer. The au-
dience is introduced to the Antrobus family, resi-
dents of suburban New Jersey caught in a time
warp somewhere between the glaciers and the
A&P. Time passes somewhat eventfully, action
dives quickly from adultery to apocalypse.
It was not the action of this play itself but the
dialogues that are most affecting to the audience.
This is in part a result of Wilder's impeccable
use of language, and in part because of his pro-
gressive use of the players' interaction with the
audience.
The play started off with a conflict between
intellect and the existence of the individual. It
declined to one less logical in progression: an
anti-World War II, pro-Christmas season mes-

sage, which is incongruous with the earlier
themes presented in the play. The intellectuality
of theme in the first and second acts was com-
fortable for the 1980s audience. The social re-
gression of the third act was confusing and
dissatisfying to the viewer. This consistency was
the only flaw in an otherwise captivating drama.
This particular production was characterized by
a fascinating holistic use of the stage. The Power
Center provides a multidimensional stage, unlike
other theatres on campus. For this reason the
play moved into the aisles and created a diverse
effect of time and motion. The four major set
changes were interestingly and precisely accom-
plished. Set design was excellently implemented
by John Esposito.
Actors have the capacity to fall out of charac-
ter and by the end of the play many of the leads
had acquired two stage identities: one of their
character and one of the alleged actor who is
playing their character. While this technique was
enigmatic even on stage in the 1980's one can't
help but imagine how realistic it might have
seemed in 1942, when the 'off-stage-actor-identi-
ties' might have seemed current.
Particularly notable performances in this pro-
duction of Skin of Our Teeth included the char-
acters of Henry and Mrs. Antrobus. Henry
Antrobus is the Cane-incarnate son of the trou-
bled family. Thomas Pasley portrayed the proto-
typical sociopath with a certain confused grace
that aided to reality of the performance. Mrs.
Antrobus, who's first name was either Eve or

Maggie (i.e. Mary Magdalene), was comfortably
played by Sharon Rosin. The role was one of the
quintessential matriarch, and might easily have
been satirized by a less careful actress.
The most consistent character in the produc-
tion was Sabina, played by Elizabeth Richmond.
This character was difficult to conceive because
she alternated between a floozy house maid, a
fairly insightful young New York actress, and a
beauty contest winner. Richmond established a
comfortable rapport with the audience, as was the
playwright's intention.
The quality of this performance was subtly
guided by the masterful direction of Phil Kerr.
Particularly, as the play began the stage action
was orchestrated to incorporate the diverse themes
and characters. Perhaps as a result of his casting
and direction the actors effectively represented the
conflicts and themes of the play.
Of particular interest in this production is that
it marked the final show with costumes designed
by Zelma Weisfeld. Professor Weisfeld has been
designing costumes at the University for 27
years, spanning over120 University productions.
This particular production was characterized by
consistency and quality in set design maintained
by her superior costumes, the most endearing of
which were the dinasaur and wooly mammoth
costumes for their respective characters.
This Power Series production of Thornton
Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth was a perceptive
and exciting presentation of a modern semi-clas-
sic in the American theatre.

Christopher Murray (left) as Mr. Antrobus, the inventor of the
wheel, gunpowder, the alphabet, and beer, explains to his son,
Henry (Thomas Pasley), his vision of the future in the University
Players' production of 'The Skin of Our Teeth.'

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11

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