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The recent return of Thornton Wilder’s “The Skin of Our Teeth” to America’s professional stages is long overdue—though it’s easy to see why it went missing for so long. First mounted on Broadway in a 1942 production directed by Elia Kazan and starring Fredric March, Tallulah Bankhead and Montgomery Clift, “The Skin of Our Teeth” ran for 359 performances, won Wilder the third of his three Pulitzer Prizes, and was widely and rightly taken at the time to be comparable in quality to “Our Town.” But while it was soon taken up by schools and amateur troupes, the play’s large cast (30 actors) and longish running time (two hours and 40 minutes) made it too unwieldy for most professional companies to consider, and it hasn’t been seen on Broadway since 1975, when a revival directed by José Quintero closed in less than a week.
Not until Arin Arbus’ warmly received 2017 Brooklyn staging did a new generation of playgoers rediscover and embrace the quirky beauties of “The Skin of Our Teeth.” The Berkshire Theatre Group’s new production, directed with total understanding by David Auburn, is the third version that I’ve reviewed in the past two years, and I’ll now be surprised if it doesn’t come back to Broadway sooner rather than later.
Why the collective change of heart? Because Wilder’s “fantastick comedy” (his spelling) about the history of humankind, which received its premiere when the United States was fighting a war whose outcome was as yet far from sure, was written to give hope to its viewers at a moment of high national anxiety….
* * *Read the whole thing here.