Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth shows mankind teetering on the brink of disaster, as the Antrobus family prepares to weather a new ice age descending on New York City from Canada, and the maid has had it with everything, including the play itself. Under Andrew Vaught's direction, the Cripple Creek Theatre Company has a lot of fun with the drama's cascading absurdity.
Wilder's Pultizer Prize-winning work premiered in 1942 and it seems shaded by the apocalyptic shadows of a couple of world wars. Cripple Creek introduces each of the three acts with a black-and-white video projection done in the style of the newsreels that preceded films of the era. The Antrobus family encapsulates mankind's existence, starting with references to Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel. The bellowing Mr. Antrobus (Christopher Bentivegna) is both the overbearing head of the household and the inventor of the wheel, the alphabet and devices suggesting man's great cognitive leaps forward. The family maid, Sabina (Megan Staab), is charmingly and literally hysterical as she melts down from the pressures of dinosaurs roaming the backyard, keeping fires burning to keep the house warm and making dinner. She often breaks character to tell the audience that she doesn't like or understand the play. A "stage manager" (Alden Eagle) frequently comes onstage to encourage Sabina to keep acting, and at one point he stops the action to rehearse a scene change.
In one of the plays' grandiose presumptions, Mr. Antrobus becomes the leader of mankind at the species' Atlantic City convention, which attracts delegates from other species categories of fish, birds and vertebrates. Even Moses pays a visit to the event. Mr. Antrobus is distracted from his mission while engaging in a dalliance under the boardwalk with a beauty queen, who also is Sabina the maid from Act 1. But he resolves to fall back in love with his wife and rebuild their lives in the final act, with appeals to faith, philosophy and literature.
Jeff Becker's cleverly minimalist set and the setting in Colton's cavernous auditorium are an oddly fitting match for Wilder's contrasting highs and lows of heroism and human frailty. The spirited cast found ease and great humor in the play's bizarre and overarching storyline. That mirth keeps the play from getting bogged down in its overwrought grasp at 'the human condition.' — Will Coviello
The Skin of Our Teeth
8 p.m. Thu.-Fri., July 30-31
Studio at Colton Theatre, 2300 St. Claude Ave., 891-6815; www.seeaplay.org