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The BackstagePASS Update

Listen Up: Director's Talk

If you missed director Linda Hardy's talk last Friday, tune in here to listen to the audio file. The week after each play we will post a recording of the preshow lecture on our website. Listen now to Linda speaking about her vision for bringing The Skin of Our Teeth to our stages.

Listen to the lecture now:

In the press:

The Skin of Our Teeth is so much fun. Local reviewers are loving our Phoenix production. We wanted to share some of what they had to say:

Times Colonist:

**** 1/2 stars!

"Directed with clarity by Linda Hardy, this theatrical extravaganza boasts lovely production values, strong student acting and — happily — strikes just the right tone," says reviewer Adrian Chamberlain. He continues:

"The costumes and set are terrific. The thrust stage ...is dominated by a wonderful backdrop of cream-coloured rags, upon which different images are projected. The costumes — which, appropriately, are slightly surreal looking — are well cut and stylish."

"Credit goes to movement coach Jacques Lemay who with bold theatricality has overseen everything from baton-twirling majorettes to the retro-style dance sequence launching the final act. Equally notable are expertly-constructed puppets of such animals as crows and wooly mammoths, manipulated with skill."

A large cast has worked hard — and it shows. Markus Spodzieja and Julie Forrest each summoned the larger-than-life stage presence required to make George and Maggie Antrobus work. Much detail has gone into smaller roles, whether it be a salaciously panting dog or a party-hearty conveners yelling inanities.

This production benefits from a unified vision. It's all about balance.The show's look is broadly theatrical, yet at the same time stylish and rooted in reality. The acting is heightened yet not overly broad. The humour is brought out, but not so much as to detract from Wilder's allegorical intent. This juggling act is no easy feat; the cast, crew and creative team deserve credit.

...the play remains relevant. Wilder's Ice Age could very well be a metaphor for global warming. Maggie's impassioned speech about the false depiction of women in the media foreshadows contemporary feminism. And the notion that history repeats itself is true today as it ever was."

Janis La Couvée

Theatre blogger and Monday Magazine writer Janis La Couvée writes in her online review:

"The Skin of Our Teeth currently at UVic's Phoenix Theatre until November 23rd is a magnificent and mesmerizing spectacle, a veritable aural and visual feast...."

The first hint of the ambitious nature of this production comes from the stage curtain. Flowing, cascading and scalloped layers of cloth, warmly lit in golden tones, provide a most unusual backdrop which parts, incrementally, to reveal wave after wave of stumbling and frigid humanity, battling the elements as they march inexorably forward."

"The magnitude of the undertaking is tremendous – how do you adequately portray an Ice Age with its advancing icebergs, a flood of biblical proportions, war, and a contemporary middle-class home (complete with pet dinosaurs)?"

"Set designer Jonathan Maxwell has constructed inventive and gasp-worthy mechanisms to suggest impending annihilation by ice and storm – I'd happily attend more than once, simply for the joy of seeing these special effects deployed. Brian Linds' aural landscapes weave a rich under fabric, and are spectacular in the haunting creaking of the opening sequences. Pay close attention to the music of the set changes – there are many allusions, including Der Führer's Face."

"A special mention needs to be reserved for the puppet creations of properties co-ordinator Bryn Finer, and the work of assistant director Chari Arespacochaga in guiding the puppeteers (Jenson Kerr, Amanda Millar, Colin Doig, Marisa Nielsen)..." [N.B. Tyler Fowler is also a puppeteer.]

CVV Magazine

Erin Anderson, the reviewer for the online culture magazine CVVMagazine.com loved the performances by our student actors:

Siskin is quite fantastic as both the beleaguered maid (and former mistress) of the Antrobus clan and the uncooperative actress who 'breaks down' to point out the ridiculous nature of the play, offering a sharp tongue and overt charm.

O'Reilly sparkles as Gladys, overflowing with childhood wonder and energy [Gladys shown right played by alternate cast Dannielle Florence], while Simms captures the journey of a jealous little boy into an angry and vengeful man.

Amongst the massive cast – many actors play more than one role – there are no notable weak links. Amy Culliford wrings much fun out of her fortune teller character and even those with small parts make the most out of their time on stage. The baby dinosaur puppets were stunning and lifelike, ably animated by their handlers...

Director Linda Hardy keeps her cast on the same wavelength, a tricky task for something with Teeth's particular style and spirit.

The Skin of Our Teeth may be absurd in premise, but it's full of substance underneath its sensational trappings. The Phoenix production has much to commend it, and the piece proves to be an excellent choice for them, combining theatrical meat for its actors with an engaging show for its audience."

The Marble

"... [ I ] was sucked into the production. The sets, costumes, props (especially the dinosaur puppets) were so intricately designed that I had no trouble committing to the extensive run-time. I was especially impressed with the amount of detail that went into the costume design, in particular in the second act.

Clearly designers Chelsea Graham and Shayna Ward paid careful attention to the script and to these characters, because the costuming had both thematic resonance and a very strong ability to ground the scenes—and in this play, that sort of solid connection to the narrative was incredibly important."

"I would whole-heartedly recommend this show. The cast quite simply shines, every element of the production is polished and professional, and at the very least it will give you something to think about for a few days. Plus, those dinosaur puppets are pretty incredible."

CBC Victoria - On the Island

"Cue the symbolism: Antrobus is from the greek Anthropus meaning human. Mr. Anrobus is Adam, his wife is Eve, son is Cain of course who murdered his brother Abel.... So, every line, every character, ever gesture, has hidden meaning. Everything Wilder has penned here is deeply symbolic.

In keeping with the Phoenix Theatre's tradtion at the University of Victoria, production value are super high, it looks great! The cast is huge.... My favourite moment involved these brilliant puppets, the triceratops, a woolly mammoth ... and the students opperating them even provide authentic sound effects for them. It's just beautiful. Really clever.

Costumes by students Chelsea Graham and Shayna Ward are equally brilliant. Just beautiful. I think at the end of the year this might be the best dressed show in theatre in this town. Sound effects, particularly a huge ice wall and the sound of this cracking ice is like being at the IMAX. And Jonathan Maxwell's set has this giant moving ice wall, and it really is (although it's not ice obviously).

As for performances, Tea Siskin's Sabina, the maid turned adulterous, the best of the bunch [shown right is alternate cast member Hayley McCurdy as Sabina]. She's sassy, sexy... Wilder has let her break down the fourth wall. She speaks directly to the audience as an actor, it's a pretty cool device. It's kind of fun. Let's you know that "Hey, maybe this isn't real".

And don't leave your seat during the second intermission - yah, there are two intermissions -- because you'll miss this fun choreographed set change.

The Martlet

We will post The Martlet's review on the Phoenix Theatre Facebook page. Until then, read Janine Crockett's interview with Assistant Director and puppeteer coach, Chari Arespacochaga. And if you pick up a copy, check out their fantastic cover!

Photos of The Skin of Our Teeth production by David Lowes at Arts Studio21 Photography.

Phoenix eNews is a regular email magazine (5-6 times per year) for those interested in the Phoenix Theatre and the not-for-profit productions with the students at the University of Victoria's Department of Theatre.