In the Flesh

A fresh, insightful Skin tells us what happens to the human race.

But Wilder is trying to do something magnificent. He wants to say what can't be said and penetrate mysteries that can't be solved. He's asking what it means to be human and how we can stay human in the face of disaster. The son, Henry, represents murder, and somehow the Antrobuses are stuck with him. In a sense, they love him. Even after the earth-destroying cataclysm that precedes Act Three, they can't bring themselves to throw him out. There's a point when Justin Yorio, who plays Henry, also breaks character to explain that he sometimes can't control his rage on stage because of his own violent and deprived childhood. Is Wilder saying that suffering breeds violence, or that this kind of self-pity is loathsome? The script allows you to parse it both ways. Ultimately, it's the playwright's struggle with contradictory elements, dazzling clarity alternating with wretched confusion, that makes The Skin of Our Teeth a work of art. Samuel Beckett once spoke of "the expression that there is nothing to express, nothing with which to express, nothing from which to express, no power to express, no desire to express, together with the obligation to express" -- though Wilder's desire to express is clear enough.

Carol Halstead and Jamie Horton in The Skin of Our Teeth.
Carol Halstead and Jamie Horton in The Skin of Our Teeth.

Details

Presented by the Denver Center Theatre Company
Through November 9
Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
303-893-4100, www.denvercenter.org

Jamie Horton carries the role of Mr. Antrobus with bluff but never overbearing authority, giving the character nuance, depth and feeling. It's a skilled, generous performance that functions as the play's strong bass line. Jacqueline Antaramian has a voice like cut glass, and she's an amazingly pert and funny Sabina. In the less showy but crucial role of Mrs. Antrobus, Carol Halstead is warm, steady and understated. Stephanie Cozart has a lot of fun with Gladys, and it's infectious. Yorio's Henry seems insufficiently developed to me. Even when given a part that's fuzzy or ambiguously written, an actor can provide specificity through the timbre of his voice, his carriage, the set of his mouth -- but Yorio doesn't. Kathleen Brady is a lizard-like hoot as the Russian fortune teller; you keep expecting the flicker of a forked tongue. There's great strength, too, in all the smaller parts. In particular, the actors brought something deeply touching to the roles of the Hours -- Keith L. Hatten's shyness as the usher and the precision and presence of the marvelous Randy Moore.

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