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THEATER | REVIEW

Revival bares its 'Teeth'

Evidence Room memorably places Wilder's avant-garde play in the 21st century.

June 13, 2003|David C. Nichols | Special to The Times

Authentic ingenuity invigorates "The Skin of Our Teeth," currently eviscerating the Evidence Room. Thornton Wilder's visionary allegory on mankind's cockeyed resilience receives an audacious yet comprehensive revival.

When "Skin" opened in 1942, Wilder's jovial but firm antiwar sentiment hardly reflected the patriotic fervor of World War II America. Although the play earned Wilder his third Pulitzer Prize, its subversive structure divided contemporary observers.

Understandably so. Wilder's saga of the ever-regrouping Antrobus clan from Excelsior, N.J., freely appropriates, among other sources, Brecht, Pirandello and the Old Testament as well as James Joyce's "Finnegan's Wake," Wilder's original inspiration.

Director Stefan Novinski honors this avant-garde spirit by drop-kicking it into the 21st century from hysterical, Barbie-doll-propelled opening to affecting, postmodernist finale.

The extensive edits and unconventional casting may trouble purists, but Novinski's fearless forces have a field day, with Donna Marquet's set, Barbara Lempel's costumes, Drew Dalzell's sound and Tony Mulanix's lighting indivisible.

Real-life spouses Jason and Alicia Adams devour Mr. and Mrs. Antrobus (alias Adam and Eve). He recalls early-period Willem Dafoe, while she deconstructs from baroque drollery to soul-baring stillness.

Ames Ingham is a marvelous Lily Sabina with spot-on snide asides, and Leo Marks' feral power is ideally suited to Antrobus son Henry (ne Cain).

Colleen Kane's Peggy Cass-flavored daughter Gladys and Juan Fernandez's reptilian fortuneteller are hilariously disturbing. Dorie Barton, Tad Coughenour, Kevin Cristaldi and Don Oscar Smith complete an ensemble whose avid reading -- a wilder Wilder than usual -- elicits apt and memorable results.

*

`The Skin of Our Teeth'

Where: Evidence Room, 2220 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles

When: Thursdays-Saturdays,

8 p.m.

Ends: July 13

Price: $15 to $20

Contact: (213) 381-7118

Running time: 2 hours

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