The play premieres at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 24 on the Performing Arts Center Stage, with performances running through March 1.
Directed by professor Jeffrey Bleam, “The Skin of Our Teeth” tells the story of the Antrobus family, of New Jersey, as they brave an ice age, a great flood and World War III.
Written in 1942 and inspired by the national concerns of joining World War II and recovering from the Great Depression, Wilder’s comedy was ahead of its time in its treatment of women’s rights, climate change and the decline of the nuclear family.
The play features a cast of nine including leads: Kaylee Kitzman, Webster, as Sabrina; Seth Wester, Randall, as Mr. Antrobus; Jessica Peters, Isanti, as Mrs. Antrobus; Robert Wolfe, Browerville, as Henry; and Ruby Bauman, Cokato, as Gladys. The remaining four actors each play a variety of roles.
Reimaging a classic
Bleam has always been intrigued by the play and he worked on the script to pare it down to the core story for St. Cloud State’s production.
“We cut out a lot of repetition and a lot of non-speaking characters and just really boiled it down to a much simpler story that’s being told,” he said. “And I think it’s a much funnier, clearer story.”
The play is a comedy that includes darker elements and is designed to make the audience think.
“It’s a thinking man’s comedy,” Bleam said. “… It’s a funny play — people are going to laugh — but we also want them to sort of think about their place in culture, where we’re going as a human race.
“The message is … about humanity’s ability to survive. And it’s also about the family as well, and the family’s ability to survive even when relationships are falling apart.”
St. Cloud State’s production is set in 1957 to examine the Cold War society — especially the media’s depiction of the “perfect family,” racial integration, juvenile delinquency, McCarthyism and feminism.
The late ’50s is a time that reflects themes of the play including feminism and the nation’s concerns about climate change and juvenile delinquency.
The change of setting is seen in the costuming, scenery and inspirations the student actors take from 1950s-era sitcoms. The students watched sitcoms such as “The Donna Reed Show” and “Leave it to Beaver” to get a sense of TV performance styles of the time.
The time period of the late ’50s is also seen in video clips that will play during the performance. The videos feature faculty and staff and have the look and sound of a 1950s news cast, Bleam said.
The play is a chance for students to learn how to find the arch of their characters and how to make their characters evolve throughout the play while also working in the comedy.
The variety of obstacles the Antrobus family faces during the play makes it an engaging play to perform, Wester said.
“It’s interesting. One of the more fun plays I’ve been in,” he said. “It’s been a blast working on. I know the rest of the cast would say the same. It’s been all-together a great experience.”
For the students performing ensemble parts, their difficulty was finding a new style and characterization for each role to make them each unique, Bleam said.
Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 24-28 and 2 p.m. March 1. The cost is $10, $7 for students and seniors and free for those with a St. Cloud State ID. Tickets are available in the Atwood Memorial Center at www.scsutickets.com.