Thursday, May 2, 2024

not a theatrical review

The Skin of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder

I'd seen The Matchmaker and Our Town, I thought I'd go see a local production of this. What little I'd read about it suggested this play was very weird, which is usually a plus in my book. I carefully avoided reading anything else about the play, or the text itself, so that my reactions would be fresh. A couple of very small-local reviews (forwarded in e-mail by the theater) were enthusiastic, so I was hopeful.

The ticket info said it would be 3 hours long and there'd be only one intermission. The intermission came one hour in. I decided I didn't want to sit through another two hours of this, and just left. If anybody from the theater had accosted me and asked why I was leaving, I'd have rolled my eyes and said, "If you have to ask ..." But you, lucky people, weren't there, so I'll try to explain it.

A bit was the acting. The actors tried very hard. The trouble was that you could see them trying. They didn't inhabit the characters, they spoke the lines with over-earnest emotion.

But it was mostly the script. It was weird, but it wasn't coherently weird. The author hits the audience over the head with what would have been clever allusions if they'd been a bit more subtly introduced. The characters keep saying the same things over and over again, as if they didn't think anybody else was paying any attention, and they might have been right. On top of which they also keep changing their minds, back and forth, in a vertiginous manner that seems overgenerated by any stimuli. My interest in the characters rapidly descended below zero.

It might have been funny - at times - without all these problems. After I got home I read the play's Wikipedia article. Had I known it was based on or inspired by Finnegans Wake, I would never have gone at all.

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