CSU Presents The Skin of Our Teeth

The Cleveland State University Department of Theatre and Dance presented showings of “The Skin of Our Teeth” in the Outcalt Theatre at Playhouse Square from Feb. 23 to March 5, 2023. It was directed by Toby Vera Bercovici, Assistant Professor of Practice. 

“The Skin of Our Teeth,” by Thorton Wilder, is the story of a family that faces disasters (ice age, flood, and war to name a few) and has to rebuild. While the family can be seen as a typical 1940s family, the family is also portrayed as straight from the Garden of Eden, and then a family in a post-apocalyptic age. 

Mr. and Mrs. Antrobus, the heads of the family, were played by Jaren Thomas Hodgson and Rita ElJamous, both seniors majoring in Theatre. Sabina was played by Graceyn Cecelia Dowd, a sophomore majoring in Communication Arts and minoring in Theatre. Each member of the cast added a unique piece to the play. Lucie Vonau, a junior majoring in Theatre and Communications, played E. Muse (a refugee) and a Conveener. When asked about the unique aspects of the play, she noted multiple aspects. 

“Paradoxically, what I think is unique about this play is the universality of the story. It is a very dense and rich play in which almost all the possible themes exist. We need plays like this one because there is an important truth to it, even though it can be overwhelming.” 

Vonau also mentioned that, “multiple acts break the suggestive and non realistic set design [and] the interaction between Sabina and the usher constantly remind the audience that they are in a theatre, which allows the audience to become critical observers rather than being transported in an escapist fiction.” 

As an audience member, the loud thunderclaps and rainstorms in the play- almost- transported me away, into the play, as the sort of escapist fiction Vonau mentioned. Vonau’s descriptions of the interruptions (act breaks, not realistic set, interactions between Sabina and the usher character, a scene of “rehearsal” of the play ending) accurately explained my experience as an observer in the audience.  

I left the play with a friend feeling somewhat confused and in need of research to understand the context that the play was written in. The play provoked in me a desire to learn more by providing me with perspectives that I never would have anticipated observing in a theatre. 

As a cast member, Vonau also had an out of the ordinary experience.

“I enjoyed my roles a lot and how movement, dance and singing were implemented. As one of the Conveeners, it was fun to play someone who is so far from me and [be able to] embody greed, power and self-absorption.”

In stark contrast to the self-absorption of the Conveeners, refugees gathered on the front lawn of the Antrobus family. A mammoth, played by Matthew Andrus, and a dinosaur, played by Em Davis, also visited the stage. The character of Sabina even says, “I hate this play,” during the performance. The provocative diversity in the characters and elements of the play made relating to at least one aspect of the play a realistic possibility for each member of the audience.

In the Director’s Note, Bercovici explains, “My hope is that you will see a piece of yourself in them, and come away with a renewed sense of persistence and hope.” 

It seems to me this sentiment was accomplished in both the audience and cast of the play.