You know the line: "Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be." Well, not quite true according to playwright Joshua Harmon, or at least the characters in his funny and provocative play "Skintight." To them, it seems everything is truly skin deep.
Idina Menzel in her first non-singing role is Jodi Isaac, recently divorced and depressed about her ex’s engagement to a much younger woman. At play’s start she’s arrived in New York seeking comfort from her very successful father, Elliot Isaac, a famous designer in the mold of Calvin Klein. He’s a rather chilly character about to turn 70, and not thrilled that his daughter is crashing his birthday plans with his latest boyfriend, 20-year-old Trey. Later on we meet Jodi’s gay son Benjamin, spoiled and world-weary already at the age of 20.
They’re all self-absorbed. And while Harmon is an extremely gifted writer of comic dialogue, his characters are so selfish, it’s hard to laugh without feeling somewhat guilty, especially when they’re treating the help so callously.
Harmon admirably and effectively seizes on our consuming fixation with appearance and age. But the play has something of a split personality; trying to be both a black comedy and a social commentary. On the one hand the characters seem too cruel and utterly unlikeable to be real, but in those moments when the author digs beneath their vein skins, it resonates.
Much of the credit for the play’s success goes to the fine ensemble under Daniel Aukin’s incisive direction. Jack Wetherall is very convincing as a man desperate to stay young in lust. And as the object of his affection, Will Brittain’s Trey is amusingly tres shallow. Eli Gelb’s Benjamin delivers a terrifically nuanced portrait of a cynical kid suffering from premature adulthood. And Idina Menzel beautifully nails Jodi’s superficial claim to entitlement.
Josh Harmon’s earlier play "Significant Other" was somewhat more successful balancing the yin and yang of our self-centered existence. Still, his humorous insights on our obsession with youth and beauty in "Skintight" bares some ugly truths that speak to us all.