History repeats with 'The Skin of Our Teeth' at Newton North

November 18, 2010

By Laura Paine/Staff Writer
Wicked Local Newton

History has a funny way of repeating itself, for better or worse, which is one of the messages Thornton Wilder wanted to send about the human experience with his play, "The Skin of Our Teeth." Seventy years later, Theatre Ink launches its first season in its new home at the recently opened Newton North, hoping to send the same message with Wilder's script to get the community really laughing -- and thinking.

Ironically, 'The Skin of Our Teeth" is one of the first plays that was performed at what is now called the "old Newton North" -- the building that is slated to come down in the spring.

"Even with all the technology and how much we improve on that level as a society, man really doesn't change," Theatre Ink director Adam Brown said. "We always end up in the same place we started. The human experience almost stays the same. You see that today with war, how people communicate. You can still have a cell phone and not get in touch with someone."

Thornton's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which debuted in the early 1940s, follows the Antrobus family, who appear to be an everyday American family until it comes to light that Mr. and Mrs. Antrobus are the biblical Adam and Eve, and the outcome in the battle of good and evil is dependent upon the outcome of their domestic disputes.

The show is intended to be a satirical comment about progress, social Darwinism and human values. Co-director Aviva Galpert, a 17-year-old senior, said that even progress is a form of backsliding, referencing a scene in which Mr. Antrobus creates the wheel while he also creates gunpowder.

"We keep going, and there is going to be backsliding and regression, but we have to keep building and persevere," Galpert said. "Humanity is never going to be perfect and get to that one place. In the times when it seems hardest and most unlikely we will get there; that's when we need to be working the hardest."

Caleb Bromberg plays Mr. Antrobus, who the 16-year-old junior said is a "big metaphor for humanity" and how it keeps going despite inevitable setbacks.

"If I can't keep going and start rebuilding, then nobody can," Bromberg said. "Everybody looks to Mr. Antrobus to know what to do. In many ways, he's just a bumbling idiot and has no idea what he's doing. It's kind of ironic; the entire world looks to someone as foolish as he is, to rebuild for them."

Madeline Murphy, a 16-year-old junior, plays the part of the Antrobus' maid, Sabina, who is over-the-top, power hungry and aware of the power of her beauty, which she uses to seduce Mr. Antrobus. Murphy described Sabina as sin, the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden and "the push and pull between doing what you want, what's fun, and doing what is right."

"We came into the process reading the script, but then throughout the character development and talking it out, I found 20 different levels of Sabina and 20 reasons why she reacts the way she does," Murphy said. "That's every character in the show. They interconnect so perfectly."

Seventeen-year-old co-director Edan Laniado said the main message is of evolution versus creation, and no matter how far mankind has come, in many ways, things have not changed.

"We are still fighting and killing each other in wars, dying from disease and not perfect," Laniado said. "Thornton was writing about what was going on in the '40s; who knew that 70 years later we would pretty much be in the same place. What he said continued to happen."

Laniado and Galpert said "The Skin of Our Teeth" is hilarious, despite the serious themes throughout the course of the nearly two-hour-long play, and it may cause viewers to take a close look in the mirror after the show.

"We chose it because we wanted something that was funny, but we didn't want something insubstantial and fluffy," Galpert said. "We liked that it had philosophy and was an intellectual play, but we like that it has messages that are meaningful and relevant. We wanted the [audience] to take home something that could affect how they approach things."

Laura Paine can be reached at lpaine@cnc.com.

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