An ‘absurd’ history
‘The Skin of our Teeth’ opens tonight at Peterson Auditorium
Dinosaurs, icebergs, great floods and a confluence of characters from biblical times to the atomic age.
All these themes and more will be on display during the Ludington High School Drama Club’s production of “The Skin of our Teeth.”
Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning absurdist play, co-directed by Rick and Chris Plummer, opens at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Peterson Auditorium and will run evening shows Friday and Saturday before concluding with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday.
Dubbed a “tragi-comedy” in the program, “The Skin of our Teeth” is an absurdist take on world history and the story of man, occurring in an overlapping distant past and modified present that finds the main character simultaneously inventing the wheel, working out the kinks in the creation of the alphabet and coming home to a 1940s household where a dinosaur and woolly mammoth are kept as excitable pets, all while staring down the arrival of destructive icebergs and impending war.
Simply put: there’s a lot going on.
“It’s very challenging technically and dramatically,” Chris said.
She recruited her husband Rick — professor emeritus of theater and performing arts at West Shore Community College — to lend a hand with direction duties. He said he was happy to oblige, noting the significance of the play not only to theatrical history, but to the human condition as a whole.
“It’s about the indomitability of the human spirit,” Rick said. “But it’s all cast within the framework of theater of the absurd, so it’s very silly.”
The central family includes George and Maggie Antrobus — allegories for Adam and Eve — whose son, Henry, bears the mark of Cain on his forehead, bringing a biblical spin into the story.
Announcers with slick hair narrate the events in television-announcer fashion, and the fourth wall is broken as actors address the audience, blurring the lines of reality in tandem with the events on stage.
History is shuffled like a deck of cards and re-stacked for the play, which, despite being informed by the tension and uncertainty of the World War II era, contains a healthy dose of optimism and humor, according to the Plummers.
“It’s about human strength and perseverance and the ability to overcome all obstacles,” Chris said. “The first act is the ice age, with a woolly mammoth and a dinosaur on stage. In the second act, there’s a great flood, and in the third act is the great war.”
See The Scene in Thursday’s Ludington Daily News print and e-Editions for the full story and photos.