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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Whirlwind of Emotion on a Lifelong Journey

'Skin Tight' returns to Renaissance Theaterworks

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Renaissance Theaterworks retraces steps already taken by returning to Skin Tight, an intimate, hour-long play about two lovers’ lives that RTW first produced 10 years ago. The creative ground remains fertile. RTW has brought back everyone they could from that earlier, wildly successful production—director Laura Gordon, actors Leah Dutchin and Braden Moran, almost all of the design team—and together they make their audience laugh, cry and ache as much as the original must have.

There’s a delightful economy in Skin Tight, both as written by Gary Henderson and as directed by Gordon. Married couple Elizabeth and Tom start the show in conflict, wrestling with each other for five minutes in a first rough, then erotic fashion that tells us more about their characters than any dialogue could—although the dialogue itself, full of poetic turns of phrase that would not sound out of place in a sonnet or elegy, is to be cherished as well. Skin Tight is full of little nonverbal moments that say everything: little splash fights using the tub upstage center, side-eyed smirks, a tiny but powerful pause to let Elizabeth suck the juice of an apple from Tom’s neck.

Dutchin and Moran never fall out of sync, making you near-forget you’re watching actors on a stage. Their motions are filled with a clumsy grace that blends realistic fallibility with stylized movements, designed by Maria Gillespie, that are stunning in their simplicity and cleverness.

More than anything, Skin Tight is an experience as much as it is a play. It’s two lives’ long journey distilled into an hour—a whirlwind of emotions that should not be ignored if you missed its first arrival, or skipped if you experienced it 10 years ago.

Renaissance Theaterworks’ production of Skin Tight runs through April 27, at the Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway. For tickets, call 414-291-7800 or visit r-t-w.com.