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A solid take on a challenging play, Mary Hall Surface’s staging of Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer-winning drama The Skin of Our Teeth (★★★) has its share of fun illuminating history.
With a few exceptions, Surface’s large cast in the Constellation production taps into the same serio-comic, absurdist sensibility that drives Wilder’s patently weird allegory of millennia of life on earth. Especially good is Lolita Marie, delineating the many moods and misgivings of Mrs. Antrobus, the doting wife of Steven Carpenter’s Mr. Antrobus, inventor of the wheel, the alphabet, and multiplication tables, just to name a few of his contributions to humankind.
The conceit is that he and she have been married for 5,000 years, with two kids, Henry (Dallas Tolentino) and Gladys (Malinda Kathleen Reese). The pet woolly mammoth and T-Rex roaming the Antrobus’ yard in Excelsior, New Jersey are just two of the more outlandish accoutrements of an otherwise conventional patriarchal household. Also in residence, and outlandish in her own right, is their maid Sabina, portrayed by Tonya Beckman, who, along with Marie, leads the ensemble in maintaining the wry tone of Wilder’s meta monster-piece. It can’t be easy acting opposite a mammoth and a dinosaur, even if the craftwork used to create the creatures is effective for comedy.
But the comedy comes crashing down as the Antrobuses face the potential end of the world. Save the family, one Antrobus insists, while another contends, “Except for power and pleasure, what is there?”
Besides the existential angst, and exploration of humanity’s progress, which feel urgent at the moment, the play explores unspoken gender dynamics that, strikingly, are more and more spoken about every day. With that, and some of the play’s portrayal of Mrs. Antrobus’ unwavering fealty to her husband, comes a stinging whiff of a point of view that might soon be history itself.
The Skin of Our Teeth runs until February 11 at Source Theatre, 1835 14th St. NW. Tickets are $25 to $55. Call 202-204-7741, or visit ConstellationTheatre.org.
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