This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

8Jul/18

SKINTIGHT

(photo by Joan Marcus 2018)

Benjamin Cullen (Eli Gelb), Jodi Isaac (Idina Menzel), and Trey (Will Brittain) don’t exactly get comfortable with one another in Skintight (photo by Joan Marcus 2018)

Laura Pels Theatre
Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre
111 West 46th St. between Sixth & Seventh Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through August 26, $119
212-719-1300
www.roundabouttheatre.org

Joshua Harmon’s fourth play is another clever and insightful, if occasionally repetitive and overwrought, drama of family relationships. In (Bad Jews, a trio of siblings squabble over a treasured heirloom. In Significant Other, a gay man can’t find love while his girlfriends each get married. And in Admissions, privilege and merit come to the fore when students at a boarding school apply to college. In Skintight, making its world premiere at the Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre, Harmon delves into sex, love, aging, and lust in a dysfunctional Jewish clan. Tony winner Idina Menzel stars as Jodi Isaac, a mother and lawyer facing a midlife crisis when her husband, Greg, leaves her for a much younger woman. In desperate need of unconditional support, she pays an unannounced visit to her father, Elliot (Jack Wetherall), a wealthy clothing entrepreneur who is about to turn seventy and hates surprises. “While Greg and I were at that resort, like, not to be graphic, Daddy, but while we were having like the best sex of our lives, our adult lives, this person was getting her diaper changed, because she didn’t yet possess the motor skills to wipe her own ass,” Jodi says. But that doesn’t exactly gain Elliot’s sympathies; not only is he not exactly a warm and fuzzy father and grandfather, but he’s living with twenty-year-old stud Trey (Will Brittain), with whom he rides motorcycles and goes out to nightclubs. “There has got to be more to life than sex with a hot young thing,” Jodi adds, not seeing the comparison. When her self-involved gay twenty-year-old son, Benji (Eli Gelb), who’s been studying abroad in Budapest, arrives, Elliot worries that he might be interested in Trey. The tension mounts as the birthday dinner approaches and nobody is really listening to what anyone else is saying.

(photo by Joan Marcus 2018)

A dysfunctional family looks back at its past in latest Joshua Harmon play (photo by Joan Marcus 2018)

Harmon fills Skintight with plentiful one-liners and keen observations — “It’s not an achievement, to not die,” Jack tells his daughter about not wanting to make a big deal of his milestone birthday — and three-time Obie-winning director Daniel Aukin (Bad Jews, Admissions, 4000 Miles) guides the characters with an assured hand as they make their way through Lauren Helpern’s appropriately cold, ritzy set, an austere, silver-gray Horatio St. living room and staircase. But it’s difficult to accept Jack and Jodi as father and daughter; they lack that necessary connection that would add potency to their pithy disagreements. And Trey is so over the top, particularly when he walks around in a jockstrap, that he feels like he’s from a different play, reminiscent of Cowboy in The Boys in the Band. In a rare nonmusical stage appearance, Tony winner Menzel (Rent, Wicked), whose family is Jewish and emigrated from Eastern Europe, does well as the constantly complaining Jodi, Wetherall (The Elephant Man, Tamara) is cool and calm as the Calvin Klein-like Elliot, and Gelb (How My Grandparents Fell in Love, The Twenty-Seventh Man) is delicious as Ben, a queer studies major who, when discussing seeing Michelangelo’s “David” in Florence, explains, “They come from all over the world to see a statue a gay guy made of a nice Jewish boy. Makes you think the world isn’t such a bad place after all.” The play also features Stephen Carrasco as Jeff and Cynthia Mace as Orsolya, Elliot’s comic-relief-supplying housekeeping staff. In Skintight, Harmon delves into the nature of superficiality but doesn’t dig quite deep enough, although he still comes up with another entertaining night at the theater, showing again that a world with playwrights such as him isn’t such a bad place after all.

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