Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors
Jack Wetherall, Idina Menzel, Eli Gelb. Photo by: Joan Marcus
Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors
Joshua Harmon's Skintight is a mashup of quirky, bittersweet, sluggish and hilarity, tangled in the Roundabout Theatre Company's production at the Laura Pels Theatre. Harmon, who recently wrote Admissions and Significant Other, presents a family with provocative characters looking for love but vexed with personal predicaments of beauty, loss and loneliness.
Audrey Hepburn once said, “The beauty of a woman, with passing years only grows!” but these are not comforting words for Jodi Isaac. Sharply portrayed with flashes of humor by Idina Menzel, Jodi feels old. She is a recent mid-40's divorcée, depressed about her ex-husband's very young nubile fiancée. Yearning comfort, she leaves Los Angeles for New York under the guise of surprising her Daddy on his 70th birthday and she arrives at his minimalist home, meticulously designed by Lauren Helpern in New York's West Village. Raised to be self-involved, Jodi fully expects a loving welcome and has already invited her son, Benjamin, a 20-year gay student to join them upon his return from Hungary, where he is in a Queer Studies program.
Alas, her aloof father, Elliot Isaac (Jack Wetherall) is hardly welcoming. A fashion designer, apparently patterned after Calvin Klein, Elliot no more anticipates his fading beauty and passing years than does his daughter. "I don't want to do anything for my birthday. I told you-- I was explicitly... explicit." In addition, her arrival is threatening his own private celebration plans with 20-year-old boyfriend, Trey (Will Brittain), a beautiful but dumb ex-porn actor from the Ozarks. When Jodi meets him, he is wearing a gold Rolex, and securely ensconced in Elliot's posh home. Jodi makes no secret of her disapproval and refuses to accept Trey as a member of the family, judging him a threatening interloper.
Serving the family is Elliot's former boyfriend, Jeff, a slender, silent butler played by Stephen Carrasco. Cynthia Mace plays Orsolya, the work-weary Hungarian maid who, like Jeff, evidently observes everything. As Jeff later comments to Jodi, "Anything that's very beautiful only lasts a very short time."
The temperature chills when Jodi's son, Benjamin arrives, played by a disheveled Eli Gelb, sulky and cynically witty. He and Trey trade teasing sexual sparks that raise the eyebrows of both Jodi and Elliot, especially when Trey swans comfortably through the house in just a skimpy jockstrap.
Like Gelb, Menzel, coddled by Jess Goldstein in comfy sweater and worn jeans, has an astute flair for comedy and one might almost feel a tinge of compassion for her character, if she weren't so caustic and egotistical. Tempers come to a boil just before the family dinner. Making an earnest if awkward toast, Trey reveals his love for Elliot. "I don't ever want to lose you, because, I just don't, and I want us to be together forever and everything, and so, what I want to say is, is I wanna know will you marry me?" Jodi is horrified.
While director David Aukin keeps the humor high and Harmon's dialogue is right on target, the plot moves into a serious vein when Elliot and Jodi discuss Elliot and Trey's upcoming marriage. She tells him, "Listen, I say this with love, I do, but... You're old." She blames him for negating family responsibility for hunky hot sex.
Elliot replies, "Hot is everything. Look around you. This house-- this life-- has been paid for by hot... Sex is life, it's life, and I want life... I love waking up next to him because it feels like life, and I love that." To Jodi, he is choosing Trey's love and beauty over family love.
Laughs are abundant but the plot ioften hangs still in mid-air, yet there is a wordless ending between the characters as they have family-like dinner that promises a possible resolution. But only possible, not probable.
The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre
The Laura Pels Theatre
111 - West 46 St, New York, NY
Previews: May 31, 2018. Opening: June 22, 2018. Closing: Aug. 26, 2018
Running time: Two hours, 15 min. One intermission.
Cast: Idina Menzel, Will Brittain, Stephen Carrasco, Eli Gelb, Cynthia Mace, and Jack Wetherall
Playwright: Joshua Harmon
Director: Daniel Aukin
Review by Elizabeth Ahlfors
Also can be read on TotalTheater.com