Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic

Skinny Teeth

Last night's adventure was going to The Pear Avenue Theater conveniently located off Pear Ave. in Mountain View, to see Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer Prize-winning play By The Skin of Our Teeth.

A stranger mainstream play has never been written.

The play won a Pulitzer when it was written in 1942. Today it would have won a trip to the shredder.

The Skin of Our Teeth tries to embody all of human history in the story of a single family, that of Mr. Antrobus (Dan Roach). The show opens with the narrators telling us Mr. Antrobus has invented the wheel and the lever, has created the multiplication table and is in the process of inventing the alphabet.

His son Henry (John Sousa), we learn, used to be named Cain, and had killed his brother Able. He now has a sister named Gladys (Kat Brower). "We have always had two children", Mrs. Antrobus (Lisa Wiseman) says, "just not always the same two." No attempt is made to link Gladys to any Biblical or historical character. They have a maid, Sabina (Wendy Howard-Benham) who represents the snake in the Garden of Eden, and one of the victims of The Rape of the Sabine Women from Roman mythology.

By the end of the play, we come to understand that Mr. Antrobus represents all Good Men through history, Mrs. Antrobus stands for all wives, Henry represents all Evil Men and Sabina is the obligatory pessimist. Gladys is just another pretty face.

It didn't work for me. Partly because it is incredibly poor writing for stage - huge monologues, very little dialog. And partly because the characters are one-dimensional.

About the acting - the major roles are all incredibly difficult to perform. Wilder made no effort to establish a coherent personality for any of the characters except Henry (who is always about to kill someone, the ultimate Angry Young Man) and Sabina, the eternal pessimist and part-time man trap. Towards the end Mrs. Antrobus develops a long-suffering wife persona, but it takes three acts before we get there. All the major roles were done well enough, but all except Mrs. Antrobus and Gladys lapsed into "line recital" mode. Mr. Antrobus did a lot of that, especially as the play ground on into Act III.

There is a small supporting cast, Jaime McFaden is the cutest Ice Age telegram delivery person one could ever hope to set eyes on. She also plays a party girl and one of the narrators. Linda Press is amazing as Esmerelda the fortune teller, Miss Muse, a pet dinosaur and Aristotle. Lance Gardner is the pet mammoth, a party boy and Homer. Jonathan Ferro is a narrator, stage manager, party boy and Moses.

Throughout the performance I could not take my eyes off Kat Brower. She is just stunning, with light colored eyes which look like little spotlights. Watch for her name - she's going to be a Star. Already she has one major movie role to her credit - she co-starred in BeauteouS which was a hit at Sundance this year.

The Pear is a hole-in-the wall "black box" theater which seats about 50 on bleachers in front of a bare floor. They have a nice lighting grid and sound system, but none of the other usual stage gizmos. It is located at the end of a row of warehouse businesses at the end of a dead-end road a block from Shoreline Blvd.

They have been in business for about two years now. Their goal is to bring professional acting to the local community. They also teach acting and playwrighting. I first discovered them when my assistant in a play I was directing landed a job stage managing there. I've been going there regularly ever since.

They also make the theater available to other pro and semi-pro groups, and the next show going up will be No Exit produced by my friend Meredith Hagedorn's Dragon Productions.

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