“The Skin of Our Teeth” at the Phoenix

The 1942 Pulitzer Prize winning play “The Skin of Our Teeth,” written by Thornton Wilder, is featured at Phoenix theatre this November. The play is about a family surviving through different catastrophes of humanity including war and the ice age. It features a large cast of UVic students and is directed by UVic professor Linda Hardy.

As the Antrobus family and other humans emerge on stage during the first act in the ice age, the cold is palpable, as though cold air is being pumped into the theatre. It is small touches such as these that draw the audience into the action. The audience is further immersed in the action, as the action is not confined to the stage. The audience is warned before the play that they need to keep all aisles clear for the actors, and throughout the play the aisles were used so much they might as well have been a part of the stage.

As the characters of the play spoke to the audience directly, the breaking of the fourth wall felt natural and was used as another method to draw the audience into the play.Throughout the play the fourth wall is also broken when “mistakes” happen within the play, such as actors not realizing their cues and not entering the scene when they are supposed to. It was a unique addition to the play, however at times it felt a little too hammed up, and it didn’t pull the audience out of the play because of the already extensive use of breaking the fourth wall.

The play was almost three hours long, but the two intermissions, as well as each act being introduced by a radio announcer, helped to keep the play feeling much shorter. Moments of the acts at times felt repetitive, but that is the whole point of the play. Humanity is repeating itself over and over and surviving through disaster after disaster. Some of the seating was facing the sides of the stage and depending on where you sat, some of the action wasn’t as visible as it could have been. However, the actors did a good job of dividing the action between sides of the stage so that one side didn’t miss out.

The acting in the play was good overall but felt a little exaggerated at times and was  reminiscent of an old style radio play. However, this may be a result of the time in which it was originally written. The inclusion of puppets used for the family pets fit in well with the actors and were endearing to the audience. The play is a unique story that is carried well by the cast and is a nice mixture of comedy and drama.

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