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Renaissance Theaterworks succeeds with brining back 'Skin Tight'

By JULIE McHALE - TimeOut Theater Critic

April 10, 2014

 

MILWAUKEE - It is said that if something’s perfect, don’t mess with it. 

When Renaissance Theaterworks decided to bring back an exquisite rendering of the New Zealand playwright Gary Henderson’s enthralling “Skin Tight,” with the same two actors and the same director as in 2004, I was thrilled but also a bit doubtful if they could ever reach that ideal result again. The play is quite physically demanding, and, of course, the actors are 10 years older, but nothing has changed. I needn’t have worried. In fact, another decade of living has only enriched their performances, which I would have thought was impossible.

“Skin Tight” traces the love life of Elizabeth and Tom from its inception to its end. By means of this couple’s fierce agility, we experience their sorrows, uncertainties, playfulness and intense passion in an uninterrupted 58 minutes that covers a long, very connected lifetime. “Skin Tight” is a perfect title to describe that connection.

We have all read or watched many love stories, hopefully some of us have lived one, but the style in which this story is told is unusual. Their choreographed battles, game-playing, love-making and dancing all reveal their uncompromising love for each other, along with their incredible ability to move with grace and ease. In many ways, it resembles a ballet with words.

The chemistry between Leah Dutchin and Braden Moran is palpable. Even when they are fighting, they are one. 

The stage is nearly bare because of the need for an open space. The props are two pails, two cups, two apples, a pocketknife and a footed tub. Water is used in many creative ways - as expressions of playfulness, nourishment, tenderness and love. The amazing properties of a few simple objects to convey so much about the characters and their beautiful but complex relationship is extraordinary.

Credit must be given to fight choreographers Maria Gillespie and Ryan Schabach and to Raeleen McMillion, the dialect coach, for their unique contributions.  Also to Jason Fassl for his lighting and projection effects. And, of course, to Laura Gordon, who continues to impress us as the very versatile actor and director she is.

Don’t miss this one.  It’s a five-star event. To those who are shocked by some nudity, though very tastefully portrayed, be warned.

“Skin Tight” runs through April 27 in the Studio Theatre of the Broadway Theater Center, 158 N. Broadway. Call 414-291-7800 for show times and tickets or visit www.r-t-w.com.