A Brontosaurus and a Woolly Mammoth relocating among the mid-century modern trappings of a middle-class New Jersey household will now and forever have a theatrical effect, which, at least, hasn't changed since playwright Thornton Wilder's days, but so many other items have the potential of, a seminal post-modern avant-garde winner, to beguile merely on the value of it all.
The major new twist of The Skin of Our Teeth, led by Lileana Blain-Cruz, and the continued participation of a talented cast, allows for some newfound value for a work that often exceeds expectations, depending on the cast, but also on whether or not to.
In fableable sequences, Blain-Cruz highlights a few key moments of these things, so this Skin of Our Teeth lifts itself from the traditional slog.
With a Black cast, loving remarks to bell hooks and a sense of youthful rage that appear to be as ferociously essential as the Black Lives Matter demonstrations of 2020, Blain-Cruz transforms Wilder's universe just enough to encompass the Black experience, placing it firmly within Wilder's epococh-spanning human history.
Sabina (Gabby Beans, terrifically funny when revealing another character beneath) travels to Excelsior, New Jersey, while catching us all up on who and what he does Mr. Antribus (James Vincent Meredith) is enquiringly tidies the attractive house while catching us all up on the who's who and what's and young Henry (Julian Robertson) who just cannot keep his hands off rocks and other boys'
And on top of everything, the Ice Age is heading towards New Jersey, and not even the friendly Bronto who lumbers around the living room a magnificent and massive hand-operated puppet designed by James Ortiz or the orange mammoth who romps like a puppy are likely to survive.
When the action and the Antrobus Family exit Atlantic City during what appears to be both the 1920s and the Biblical Flood, the mammoth and the dinosaur will not be among the chosen two-by-twos to flee the boat, except for Sabina. For instance, the vengeance of Henry is still causing worry, but Mrs. Antrobus has all but faced it with her pathetic excuse for a husband, but that storm is coming hard.
The Antrobuses have been thrashed asunder by the war the blue and gray uniforms and antebellum dresses leave no doubt which war and the long-in-coming, but never resolving, conflicts between father and son, husband and wife, at both a zenith and, Wilder suggests, a sort of equilibrium that can only exist in forgiveness.
Except that Wilder could not have imagined nuclear disaster or existential climate change, so The Skin of Our Teeth will always feel a bit, well, quaint in its ancient disasters and feel-good proposals. As theater, the Lincoln Center stage makes impressive use of the puppetry and the projections of hurricanes and a breathtaking evocation of the Atlantic City boardwalk, by the great stage star Priscilla Lopez. In a relatively brief but wonderfully humorous final image, human wanderers follow the sun through distant fields