I recently saw a production of Wilder’s Skin of Our Teeth, given by Mountain View High School students. It was amazing.
First of all, I had forgotten just what a fine play Thornton Wilder had written. As a teen, I had been involved in two productions of it, myself. One in high school and the other in college. I was too young and too inexperienced to understand the complexities held within the manuscript. Wilder winning a Pulitzer Prize for the play should have been my first clue he was on to something, but I can be slow on the uptake.
Wrapped in allegories, anachronisms, humor, dinosaurs, and satire, Wilder exposes social mores, sadly even more relevant today than in 1942. It’s about the way society gets caught up in the trappings of male/female roles, the educated vs the uneducated, the haves and the have nots, man’s love of creation and need for destruction. The author throws in murder, lust, and betrayal, almost as an afterthought, but then there’s a lot of think about in this work. A frightening, but often hilarious play, it is one that asks us to ponder our own lot in life and enforced expectations.
Under the capable direction of Rob Seitelman, Mountain View’s drama teacher, a fine production of this play was mounted. To my mind, it was of a higher calibre than one had a right to expect of high school students. But maybe not. Today’s children are much more aware and savvy than the youth in my day. And when you have a dedicated, talented director such as Mr. Seitelman, buoyed by healthy school funding, strong parental support, kids who are devoted to the arts, and a beautiful theatre in which to deliver this bundle, a lot can be accomplished. And is.
So, let’s give credit where credit is due. Last week Thornton Wilder, Rob Seitelman, and the Mountain View cast and crew delivered the goods in The Skin of Our Teeth. I was privileged to see them strut their stuff.