Reviewed by Jara Jones
What within ourselves can be shed, exposed in its imperfect state? What methods do we employ just to manifest a shell in which we can protect and numb our senses? Broken Box Mime Theater’s production of SKIN explores these questions through vignettes of wildlife, furtive and frightened love, adolescent innocence, family dynamics, the self-dissatisfaction when making art as well as deconstructions of pop culture. On the whole, the production succeeds in developing precise, engaging narratives which are both poignant and rife with vulnerable humor.
The bare stage is adorned with vibrant, welcome projections from Jacqueline Reed, rich and atmospheric lighting design by Jamie Roderick, and one hell of an artfully chosen soundtrack. While the playbill offers further explanations into the nature of each scene, I’d advise you to skip it, wait until after you’ve seen the company do their work. Art should stand up on its own, complete with specificity and a vivid and continuous story. While pantomime has perhaps one of the hardest roads to travel in order to reach this goal, it’s clear that this company can create detailed works with their disciplined physical prowess.
Withthis in mind, I’ve only got a few nits to pick before I discuss some of the gorgeous, unguarded performances in the show. The Answers, Fall from Grace, and Love Song don’t have as much focus and impact as their descriptions in the playbill would like you to believe. [untitled] takes a two-minute idea and stretches it throughout the evening, when we can see the ending coming a mile away. Lastly, Variable feels like a repetitive school exercise rather than producing new and surprising revelations.
What’s a joy to watch, and why you should absolutely see this production as well as any additional work Broken Box Mime Theater produces, are moments when the company allows a concept or relationship to truly feel heartfelt and absurd. Boys Syde is a perfect dark comedy. Survival Mode takes its welcome time to weave between what is real and what is desired, and the effect lingers long after the production concludes. Would You Put a Hat on a Ball of Sunshine… and The 16th Annual Brooklyn Beard Awards audibly made me shake with laughter and warmth. Coming This Fall is comic brilliance – in fact, I’d watch a whole hour and a half alone of the company doing animal work. Sunday aches with a smooth, giddy passion. Hashtag is fantastically directed, flawlessly connected, and just heartbreaking. Lastly, The Lake and Skin gently nudge at the desire to feel kinship and slowly break out of one’s comfort zone.
I’m grateful that a fiercely talented ensemble company like Broken Box Mime Theater exists. In a world of artists seeking to peacock and proclaim their singular greatness, BBMT trusts in the work of its group to support and challenge one another. SKIN is ultimately an evening of the collective prosperity such artists can yield within the rubric of an art-serving company, rather than a performer/creator-based one.
Skin runs until February 3, 2019 at A.R.T/New York (Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre (502 W 53rd St., NY, NY 10019) The production is 90 minutes with no intermission.