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A CurtainUp Review
Skin & Bone

" There is something alternatively beautiful and horrifying in a character's complete certainty that their experience is the only one that matters. There is beauty in the strength of their certainty, and a horror in the cold inflexibility that comes with that sure beauty. ".
—Jacqueline Goldfinger, playwright
Skin & Bone
Drucie McDaniel (L) Maureen Torsney-Weir (R)(Photo credit: Johanna Austin)
The world premiere of Skin & Bone is now on stage at Azuka Theatre. Director Allison Heishman in her program notes tantalizingly quotes Tennessee Williams from Where I Live: Selected Essays. He describes Southern Gothic style as capturing "a sense, an intuition, of an underlying dreadfulness in modern experience."

Aging sisters, Midge and Madge, live in their former B&B, now a condemned property where they preserve a veneer of faded gentility. The house, which dates from the early 19th Century, is located in the disappearing "old" Florida that sometimes can still be found tucked away just off the big interstates. Very early on, playwright Jacqueline Goldfinger begins to leak broad hints of dire secret stuff, and the ladies at once acquire a tinge of Arsenic and Old Lace, or worse.

This is the second installment of a trilogy that began with the terrible girls (2011). While not a continuation of that story, it is another Southern Gothic horror comedy set in the same imaginary town. While it may be engaging, this play isn't going for the jugular with the gravitas and resonance of Goldfinger's drama, Slip/Shot, which won the 2012 Barrymore for Outstanding New Play.

The writer's sentiments about this work (quoted above the review) ring more profound than what comes through in the play itself. A variant of, and possibly a comment on, the comedy of manners, Skin & Bone is neither terribly witty nor a knee-slapping, pratfall kind of farce. The comedy of manners form skewers the behavior of characters who fail to meet accepted social standards, and it reveals whatever errors lie behind their façade.

Heishman directs a well selected cast. Maureen Torsney-Weir's strong performance as dominant, inflexible Midge, grounds the show. Drucie McDaniel's Madge, who seeks expiation, emotes continually, putting extra heart in her line readings. Nathan Holt appears intermittently as Ronnie, a member of the County Sheriff's Dept, who sympathetically serves eviction and demolition notices. Amanda Schoonover's Emma is a poor thing, a fly who comes into the spiders' parlor. Schoonover shows what she can bring to an underwritten part, where there's not much to work with.

Dirk Durossette's evocative set of a proper but perilously decrepit interior evidences attention to detail that's essential for solid scenic design. Sound becomes a significant factor in the story, and Daniel Kontz provides it with a vengeance.

As a comedy of retro Southern Fried horror, Skin & Bone is affectionately and amusingly outré. These days this sort of thing is not as disturbing as it may once have been. Big, popular musicals have gone there. But just when spirited characters and ghoulish fun have made the play look non-transgressive, it takes a step over the line, and you pause to think about Tennessee Williams's "dreadfulness in modern experience."

Skin & boneby Jacqueline Goldfinger
Directed by Allison Heishman
Cast: Nathan Holt, Drucie McDaniel, Amanda Schoonover, Maureen Torsney-Weir
Scenic Design: Dirk Durossette
Lighting Design: Chris Hallenbeck
Costume Design: Katherine Fritz
Sound Design: Daniel Kontz
March 5- 23
90 minutes
Reviewed by Kathryn Osenlund based on 03/09/2014 performance. Azuka Theatre at The Off-Broad Street Theater 1636 Sansom Street, Philadelphia
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