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The Skin of Our Teeth (Broadway Theatre Archive)
The Skin of Our Teeth
Broadway Theatre Archive
Actors: Diana Bellamy, Renee Brooks, Blair Brown, Bonnie Campbell-Britton, Jeffrey Combs
Director: Jack O'Brien
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Television, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2002     1hr 53min

Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer Prize-winning play brings to life the fate and foibles of the celebrated Antrobus family--a bold and brassy embodiment of Wilder's vision of the American people. This eloquent comedy serves up an...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Diana Bellamy, Renee Brooks, Blair Brown, Bonnie Campbell-Britton, Jeffrey Combs
Director: Jack O'Brien
Creators: Bill Chase, Jac Venza, Samuel Paul, Thomas Hall, Thornton Wilder
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Television, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Comedy, Drama, Television, Broadway Theatre Archive
Studio: Kultur Video
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 07/30/2002
Original Release Date: 01/18/1983
Theatrical Release Date: 01/18/1983
Release Year: 2002
Run Time: 1hr 53min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

"The Antrobuses--your hope, your despair, yourselves."
Mary Whipple | New England | 01/27/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Ignoring the conventions of time, this playful "message play," directed by Jack O'Brien, studies one family from the days of the glaciers and dinosaurs to a post-apocalyptic, modern world. George Antrobus (Harold Gould), the inventor of the wheel, and Maggie (Sada Thompson), his wife, the inventor of the apron, have two children, Gladys and Henry (who was previously called Cain). Sabina (Blair Brown), the flirtatious maid, acts as the initial guide to the characters and action, commenting on their interactions. As the play progresses through the eras, author Thornton Wilder raises questions about civilization and values. George, by Act II, is convinced that the world is made for pleasure and power, but in the final act, after a modern world cataclysm, the family confronts what is truly important in their lives.

The principal actors have, among them, won twenty-two Emmy nominations and twelve Golden Globe nominations, and they certainly live up to their billing here in this 1983 production, as they present their over-the-top characterizations, accentuated by exaggerated gestures and often eye-catching costuming. Harold Gould, as George, is hilarious as the overwhelmed father of the family. Blair Brown is as seductive a housemaid as her abbreviated costumes suggest she would be, and Sada Thompson in dowdy dress is motherly and thoughtful. Academy Award winner John Houseman, in a cameo role as a buttoned-up newscaster, could not be more formal, and the satiric fortune-teller, Rue McLanahan, is full of droll humor.

Giving additional visual impact to the play are a pet dinosaur and a wooly mammoth, a beauty pageant on the Boardwalk of New Jersey, a convention of the fraternal Order of Mammals, and several attempted seductions by predatory women. The play takes liberties with the audience as the various actors step out of character to address them, as does the director. By including the audience in the action, the author reminds them that they are also part of the conclusion and the resolution.

First produced in 1942, the play reflects Wilder's fear that the war then engulfing the world might truly be a war for the future of civilization. His conclusion, which highlights the values of western philosophers, such as Spinoza, Aristotle, and Plato, also incorporates his religious beliefs and his belief in the enduring values of (western) literature. "We've come a long way--we're learning," he says, hopefully, but he also reminds us that "the end of this play isn't written yet." Creative and original in its day, the play represents a major moment in American theater. Mary Whipple

Gary F. Taylor | 05/29/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Wonderful! My favorite play. And a great performance from some very underrated actresses and actors."
Welcome tonic for sorry times
Heavy Theta | Lorton, Va United States | 03/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This play was originally produced on broadway in 1942, at a pretty anxious time in the world. Thorton Wilder certainly had a genius for heightening the effect his plays had by attacking the formality of structure. More than Our Town, his relentless unravelling of boundaries between audience and cast, production and chaos, seems to break down the resistance to the message he intends to get across. The best example of this is the hours of the night segment that ends this piece. After going through such contortions to make it appear that the cast assigned to perform it are gone, and the play certainly should end right there with the audience deserving to get their money back, this is, of course, the most magnificent, enlightening and heartening piece that ties everything before it together.

Good to great broadway cast, clever staging, and a book that has no equal in the history of theatre. A point of trivia, George Antrobus is listed as the author of the late sixties film about life after disaster, The Bedsitting Room."
It's The End Of The World As We Know It--Again and Again and
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 09/26/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Today Thornton Wilder (1897-1975) is likely best known as the author of OUR TOWN, a play so remarkably powerful and popular that statisticians declare it is performed some where in the world at least once a day. But Wilder wrote quite a bit more than OUR TOWN and indeed won two other Pulitizers: one for the novel THE BRIDGE OVER SAN LUIS REY and one for the play THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH.

Written during the early 1940s, the THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH opened in New York in 1942--a point during World War II in which Japan so dominated the Pacific and Germany so dominated Europe that it seemed possible Allied forces might not win the day. Then as now, it was a very strange play: highly theatrical, highly mannered, and it broke new theatrical ground for American audiences in more ways than one could count. Most critics liked the play a great deal; so too did most audiences. But the ones who did not like the play were very emphatic about it, and to this day it is part of Broadway folklore that a taxi driver in need of a fare had only to drive to the Plymoth Theatre, where he could easily pick up somebody storming out early on the show.

The play is not easily described. Characters speak directly to the audience; actors break character and argue among themselves; and although in some respects they seem to be living in modern America in other respects they seem unstuck in time, shifting from one historical epoch to another. In Act One the characters face encroaching glaciers of the ice age. In Act Two they are confronted with a flood of truly Biblical proportions. Act Three finds them digging out from the aftermath of a great war. In each instance they have escaped extinction "by the skin our teeth"--and so the play is not so much about the disasters mankind has faced but about mankind's strength, durability, spirit, and hope.

The 1970s and 1980s saw a major upswing of interest in Wilder's works, and this 1983 production of TEETH was at the crest of the wave. Over the years the play has attracted such talents as Tallulah Bankhead, Frederick March, Mary Martin, Montgomery Clift, and Helen Hayes; the cast of this production, which was broadcast live, is no less fine and includes Blair Brown, Harold Gould, and Sada Thompson. And it is a rarity, for it actually manages to capture the feel of a live stage performance. The players are memorable, Wilde's lines are given maximum reign, and everything unfolds with a sweep and pagentry that is both grandiose and niave. Even so, the play is flawed in two significant ways.

Rue McClanahan is truly a gifted actress, but the role of The Fortune Teller in Act Two is hardly her shining hour. She plays as a cross between Mae West, a classic New Jersey girl, and a casino floozie. The role is pivitol to both Act Two and the overall play, and while McClanahan performs full force and with tremendous energy she actually has the effect of derailing the significance of the role and creating a speed bump in the play's path. Even more unfortunate, however, is the extraordinarily dark way in which Act Three has been interpreted. Granted, Wilder's script is indeed a dark comedy with act three the darkest point, but director Jack O'Brien has pushed the darkness to such an extent that it is not so much comic as profoundly depressing--and it effectively destroys the ultimate point of Wilder's script. It is an instance in which the director has imposed a meaning upon the play that does not exist in the play itself.

Even so, given the performers, the designs, and the script itself, this is one show that fans of Wilder in general and the play in particular cannot afford to miss. Recommended with the noted reservations.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer"