THE STORY OF THE PLAY
THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH is a three act play about an American family from Excelsior, New Jersey. The father, George, is an inventor. The mom, Maggie, is a homemaker. And their two children, Gladys and Henry, appear to be two average American kids. They even have a live-in maid, the sassy, straight-talking Sabina.
But nothing is as it seems in this play – both within the story and in how it’s performed. George is credited with having invented the wheel and he’s been married to Maggie for five thousand years. It’s revealed that Henry used to be called Cain, and that he killed a brother called Abel who nobody seems to want to talk about. The actors keep dropping in and out of their roles to address the audience directly, even commenting on the play that they’re performing. THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH jumps around in time, juxtaposing the epic, Biblical, and the everyday, and presents them in a crazy-quilt of theatrical styles. In Lincoln Center Theater’s production the company of actors are mostly members of the global majority, with the Antrobus family depicted by Black actors – giving the play’s story, along with its themes and performance style, additional resonance.
In Lincoln Center Theater’s production, Act I of the play is set in the 1950s and takes place in the Antrobus’ home in Excelsior, New Jersey during a looming Ice Age. Refugees are fleeing the climate catastrophe, and the Antrobus’ pet mammoth and dinosaur are begging to come inside. As the world threatens to fall apart and civilization frays, the Antrobus family pulls together – and elicits the help of those in the audience – in order to survive.
Act II is set in the 1920s on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey during a convention in which George is elected president of “the Ancient and Honorable Order of Mammals, Subdivision Human.” Sabina reappears as a beauty queen who entices George to run away with her. A massive hurricane is looming and the Antrobus family is forced to flee in a boat along with pairs of animals, Noah's Ark-style. The world around them is being obliterated and they are, once again, being forced into the unknown to start anew.
Act III is set in the blasted post-Civil War landscape of Reconstruction. It is explained to the audience that members of the backstage crew will be stepping in to perform for actors who have been sidelined with food-poisoning. The Antrobus family has been dispersed by the war, and Henry and his father are now sworn enemies, having fought on opposite sides of the conflict. The war has drained the Antrobus family of everything but each other, treasured scraps of literature and philosophy, and the spark of hope. Somehow, they, and by extension the audience, will do what we have always done – survive.
All SHOW PHOTOS BY JULIETA CERVANTES