The Skin of Our Teeth. Written by Thornton Wilder. With additional material by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. Directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz. Assistant director: Teresa Cruz. Scenic design by Adam Rigg. Costume design by Montana Levi Blanco. Lighting design by Yi Zhao. Sound design by Palmer Hefferan. Projection design by Hannah Wasileski. Puppet design/direction: James Ortiz.; Hair and wig design by Cookie Jordan. Make-up design by Kirk Cambridge-Del Pesche.
The Skin of Our Teeth is the story of the Antrobus family: the paterfamilias George, always working; the mother, Maggie, trying to hold the family together; the son, Henry, formerly known as Cain, who likes to throw rocks; and the daughter, Gladys, expected by the family to be perfect. They live in New Jersey in the 1940s but also in biblical and prehistoric times, simultaneously. They deal with a wall of ice crushing their home, extreme flooding, and a war. They represent nothing less than the history of humanity, always going on against all odds.
In the tremendous production of The Skin of Our Teeth at Lincoln Center, directed with panache and gusto by Lileana Blain-Cruz, the Antrobus family is Black, and the script has been lightly edited accordingly (additional material by by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins). This casting works well, particularly in the hands of James Vincent Meredith as Mr. Antrobus, Roslyn Ruff as Mrs. Antrobus, Julian Robertson as Henry, and Paige Gilbert as Gladys. In fact, the entire cast delivers; especially noteworthy are Gabby Beans, who nails every aspect of the protean maid Sabina, and Priscilla Lopez as the Fortune Teller, whose monologue is the centerpiece of Act 2.
What is lost in this spectacle is true emotional connection with the characters. The show is so wonderful that this fault almost doesn't matter. However, the ability to feel for and with the Antrobus family would push this extraordinary production into superlative territory.
One last note: a lot of people have been walking out of The Skin of Our Teeth at the pause or at intermission. I get it–the play is certainly not everyone's cup of tea–but it's unfortunate, since the show has so much to offer. I hope you stay. However, if you want to leave, do at least see Act 2 for the sheer visual delight.