What drew me to Joshua Harmon’s new play “Skintight” was the opportunity to see Idina Menzel in a non-singing role. Ironically the play starts with Ms. Menzel, as indignant divorcee Jodi Isaac, delivering a lengthy screed about her ex’s engagement to a young twit half his age. It is a comic tour de force and I doubt that anyone without her singer’s lungs could have pulled it off.
Jodi has impetuously flown into Manhattan to seek consolation from her father, Elliot (Jack Wetherall), a wealthy fashion mogul who is about to turn seventy. But seeking solace from Daddy is like trying to buy milk at a hardware store. Having left his late wife years ago, when he came out of the closet, Elliot is impervious to anyone’s distress except his own. And he is mightily distressed by Jodi’s plans for his 70th birthday and the news that Jodi’s son Benjamin is coming in from Europe to join the celebration.
The reason for his pique becomes clear when his 20 year-old boy toy Trey (Will Brittain) enters to take him off for a motorcycle ride. Trey is Elliot’s new “partner”—and he has a $450,000 Rolex to prove it.
While she has seen many a partner come and go in her father’s life, Jodi is disturbed by Trey’s youth—he’s the same age as her son! A fact that is not lost on Benji (Eli Gelb) when he arrives on the scene. A bright Jewish boy coming to terms with his own homosexuality and a deeply fractured family, Gelb’s Benjamin is a marvelous amalgamation of petulance, hurt and humor. Just as Menzel’s Jodi is a terrific train wreck of neediness, resentment and hope.
But it’s apparent that playwright Harmon’s sympathies lay with Elliot, who adores the Adonis-like Trey, even knowing that he was once a porn actor and is obviously a mental midget. (However, my hat is off to Will Brittain who manages to make Trey something more than a tacky cliché.) Elliot rhapsodizes over Trey’s tight skin. “I’d love to sleep in sheets made of your skin,” he says, which made me think, ‘And so would Hannibal Lecter.’
It’s hard to overstate what an unappealing character the aged Elliot is, in his muscle shirt and tight jeans, and Jack Wetherall portrays him with an air of wounded nobility that doesn’t help matters.
Director Daniel Aukin successfully mines every nugget of needed humor to be found in this script and crafts an ending which offers a faint ray of hope for this disaffected foursome. My only hope is that Mr. Harmon comes up with a better play next time.
Running time: 2 hours and 10 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission
For more informaiton and tickets, please visit the Roundabout Theatre Company website.