|Idina Menzel plays Jodi in Joshua Harmon's Skintight|
By Darlene Donloe
When Joshua Harmon’s Skintight begins, Jodi (Idina Menzel) is sitting on the couch in her father, Elliot’s (Harry Groener) plush, ritzy Manhattan home - complete with a maid and a butler. She has just flown across the country to surprise him on his 70th birthday.
Actually, Jodi, a lawyer is also running away from Los Angeles because that is where her ex-husband is throwing an engagement party for him and his 24-year-old fiancée who loves to spin. Jodi refers to her as the “little spinner.” Jodi’s ex has invited all of their friends to the soiree and Jodi, who is mentally hanging on by a thread, just can’t take the betrayal so she escapes to her father’s luscious digs.
The problem is, and there are many, Elliot doesn’t want to celebrate his birthday and he doesn’t like surprises. Jodi also doesn’t know that her father has taken a male live-in lover named Trey, brilliantly and deliciously played by Will Brittain. When she finds out, she’s none too happy about the situation.
|(l-r) Harry Groener, Eli Gelb and Idina Menzel in Skintight|
This is just the beginning of the racy, raunchy and sometimes naughty Skintight, currently enjoying its West Coast premiere at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood.
At its core, the show is about family and about the need to be accepted, wanted and loved. It’s also about our obsession with aging, youth, and beauty. But what actually ensues once all the players are in place, is just how fragile a family and relationships can become when everyone tries to force their morals on others.
Jodi and her father, Elliot, have a strained relationship. He wasn’t around much while she was growing up and she still resents it. Elliot was too busy building his fashion empire and he has no apologies.
Jodi has a gay son named Benjamin who also doesn’t share a loving relationship with his grandfather.
Jodi, Benjamin and Elliott just seems to tolerate each other. It’s very much like any other family.
|(l-r) Idina Menzel, Harry Groener and Will Brittain|
And watching all of this on the sidelines are the butler, Jeff (Jeff Skowron) and the maid, Orsolya (Kimberly Jurgen), who both give a pleasing turn in this show.
Harmon’s script is incredibly authentic. He writes from a base of realism. His writing is solid – yet fluid, hilarious, and engaging.
Aukin’s direction couldn’t be better. It’s crisp and has forward movement. It moves the story along at just the right pace. It’s on point, emotional and rings of genuineness. There isn’t a wasted move in the show.
Idina Menzel is a wonder. The Tony Award-winner brightens the stage with her very presence. Her delivery is appealing. She’s a theatrical wonder.
Eli Gelb as Benjamin nearly steals this show. His performance as the glib, young, gay Jewish boy is dead on.
|(l-r) Eli Gelb, Harry Groener and Will Brittain|
Brittain is magnetic with his Greek-like body and Oklahoma drawl, while Groener delivers just the right amount of being non-plussed.
Lauren Helpern’s scenic design is remarkable and slick. It whets your whistle just enough to make you want to move in and wonder what the rest of the house looks like.
All around, Skintight scores on several points and is well worth the price of admission!
|Eli Gelb and Idina Menzel|
Skintight was commissioned by and premiered at Roundabout Theatre Company (Todd Haimes, Artistic Director; Julia C. Levy, Executive Director).
Skintight, written by Joshua Harmon (Bad Jews, Significant Other) and directed by Daniel Aukin, stars Idina Menzel, Harry Groener, Jeff Skowron, Will Brittain, Eli Gelb, and Kimberly Jurgen.
Skintight, Gil Cates Theater at Geffen Playhouse, 10888 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles; 8 p.m. Tues.-Fri.; 3 and 8 p.m. Sat. and 2 and 7 p.m. Sun.; $30-$145; 310 208-5454 or www.geffenplayhouse.org.
2 hours and 15 minutes, including one 15 minute intermission.
On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likable), O (oh, no) and E (excellent), Skintight gets an E (excellent).