Thornton Wilder’s wild play The Skin of Our Teeth opened at the Lincoln Center with bigger-than-big scenic elements, a Black Antrobus family and updates to the script. Critics love the visuals director Lileana Blain-Cruz brought to the production and hand out high praise to a number of the actors; but ultimately, many were left siding with Sabina (“I hate this play and every word in it”) and wondering if maximalist-amounts of anything could make this work of Wilder’s into a worthwhile revival.
New York Times Review of The Skin of Our Teeth
Under Lileana Blain-Cruz’s gorgeous, restive direction, this production sides not so much with George, the inventor of the wheel and alphabet, but with Sabina, the Antrobuses’ vampy maid, who maintains a healthy skepticism toward the whole of the human race. … Sabina is played by Gabby Beans (“Marys Seacole,” “Anatomy of a Suicide”), a ferocious actress and a Blain-Cruz regular who demonstrates her comic gifts here. Those gifts are ample. And they come beribboned and frilled. … And in most productions, the Antrobuses are white, but here they are Black, which lends that choice particular resonance, twisting the knife of human cruelty. This strategy doesn’t warp the play so much as deepen it. … In Blain-Cruz’s maximalist hands, [the big play] gets even bigger, the stage overflowing with flowers and lights and dazzling, playful puppetry. She favors a high femme aesthetic — luxuriant, Instagrammable — and no other serious director working now has such a profound interest in visual pleasure and delight. She also has a killer playlist (Rihanna, Dua Lipa). Because this is the way the world ends: all bangers, no skips. For some, this too muchness, married to Wilder’s bookish mischief, will pall. … But if you stick it out, you can find real power in the way the lush design garlands a profound suspicion of human endeavor.
Variety Review of The Skin of Our Teeth
Thornton Wilder’s allegorical play “The Skin of Our Teeth” is bizarre, abstract and convoluted; it’s not to be taken seriously. Or so Sabina (Gabby Beans) tells the audience at Lincoln Center Theater’s Broadway revival of the 1942 Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Thornton Wilder. But don’t listen to her: There are definitely things to take seriously here, as the themes of this 80-year-old work, courageously but unevenly directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz, remain relevant and vital to be reckoned with by contemporary audiences. … The events of the play are chaotic, but in this production they connect to the chaos of the here and now in ways that left me bewildered and a little frazzled. … At the performance I attended, other audience members, too, could be overheard whispering to each other for help in understanding what was — or wasn’t — going on. For many of us, Adam Rigg’s opulent dreamscape set and the salted pretzels and rainbow jelly beans given out at intermission were the only sprinkles of sweetness this production offered.
Deadline Review of The Skin of Our Teeth
Lincoln Center Theater’s major new revival of the play, directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz, with additional material by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and the tireless efforts of an exemplary cast, does, in fact, afford some newfound vitality for a work so often more admired than loved. … [A]ny attempt to meet and rise above the play’s inherent challenges would seem to require a vision, maybe a ruthlessness and certainly a firm grasp of the play’s continued reason for being. Blain-Cruz does in fact display occasional moments of just those things, and so this Skin of Our Teeth, in fleeting sequences, lifts itself from the play’s traditional slog. With a Black cast, loving references to bell hooks and allusions to youthful rage that seem as ferociously essential as the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, Blain-Cruz reshapes Wilder’s universe just enough to encompass the Black experience, placing it firmly within the sweep of Wilder’s epoch-spanning tragicomic history of humanity.
TimeOut Review of The Skin of Our Teeth
Wilder’s unwieldy epic, which is being revived at Lincoln Center in an eye-popping production directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz, telescopes human experience into a transhistorical study of cycles of destruction and survival through the ages. … I’m not sure that any revival of The Skin of Our Teeth can really work anymore. But for theater lovers, this one offers a rare chance to see Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize–winning curiosity as an all-out extravaganza, with nearly 30 actors—the always superb Roslyn Ruff is a standout—and a vividly imaginative staging. Blain-Cruz does her best to keep the audience engaged with a host of video and scenic effects, and the designers—Adam Rigg (set), Montana Levi Blanco (costumes), Yi Zhao (lighting), Palmer Hefferan (sound), Hannah Wasileski (projections)—more than pull their weight. No one but Lincoln Center would do this for such a difficult, arguably unstageable play; it’s like an Encores! production on a massive scale. Again: There’s a dinosaur! Perhaps this is a case of theater makers so preoccupied with whether or not they could revive The Skin of Our Teeth, they didn’t stop to think if they should revive it. But as vexing as the show sometimes is, I’m glad that they did.
New York Post Review of The Skin of Our Teeth
The set is the real star of “The Skin of Our Teeth,” Thornton Wilder’s geezer of a play that opened Monday night on Broadway. Up at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater, designer Adam Rigg’s spectacular scenery for the revival is as mammoth as the woolly mammoth that stomps around the characters’ living room along with an adorable brachiosaurus. The supersize environs liven up a 1942 comedy that, at over three hours long, can feel rather prehistoric itself. … Even with a pinky-out “I won a Pulitzer” attitude, the show can be amusing in spots. … Those loyal Lincoln Center subscribers have their microscopes out in search of any speck of profundity in the show — but, beyond the obvious, there isn’t much to spot. … Beans, who brings to mind Endora from “Bewitched,” begins a smidge too campy, but turns out one of the season’s funnier performances. Meredith and Roslyn Ruff, as Mr. and Mrs. Antrobus, ground the zaniness with moral authority. And, playing the Antrobus’ son, Henry, Julian Robertson’s PTSD-inflected performance in Act 3 is affecting.