On a recent Sunday afternoon, my husband and I took the train to Philadelphia to see the world premier production of a new play at the Arden Theatre Company. Under the Skin, by playwright Michael Hollinger, was one of the best plays I have seen at the Arden where we have been season ticket holders for the past three years.
While trying hard not to give anything away, I want to encourage anyone who has a parent or has been a parent to see it, and so I will offer a short summary and review here. The play is no longer at the Arden, but I hope it continues to be produced at theaters around the country.
Raina is a young mother who cannot forgive her father for not being there for her. . Her father contacts her because he needs a kidney and she might be a match. At first, she is outraged, but as the story unfolds she learns more about him and herself. Now she is raising a child of her own, and to her horror, she loses her temper and calls her a name. There are some big surprises in the course of this two hour play, for all four characters: Raina, her father Lou, Lou’s former mistress and her son. Some of the characters play more than one part which only serves to accustom the audience to seeing the interchangeable flaws, feelings and behavior among human beings.
Most people vow to raise their children differently than they were brought up. And many of us end up disappointing ourselves, as we become aware of carrying the same mistakes forward. We judge our parents, then we judge ourselves. It’s not a big leap to go on to judge other people we meet.
Why do I want you to see Under the Skin? Because there is so much keeping us apart these days – fear and terrorism and war and economics and racism – and because a little thing like going to a play and sitting quietly with others for a couple of hours, paying attention to a story not all that different from all our stories, could move you closer to a sense of inner peace.