SKIN AROUND THE EARTH
nytheatre.com review by Alyssa Simon
In Greek mythology, the son of Achilles abandoned the great warrior
Philoctetes on the island of Lemnos with a giant festering snakebite
wound on his foot. In Skin Around The Earth, a takeoff and
commentary on that myth, Neoptolemus, who is Achilles’ son, and Odysseus
return to Lemnos ten years later to bring Philoctetes back to fight in
the Trojan War.
August 15, 2002
I’ve been told the myth of Philoctetes can be interpreted psychologically as the self-pity and loathing of one’s own making that can keep one stranded on an island . That would seem to be the case in this version, where Philoctetes (played by Valerie Geffner) takes erotic pleasure in aggravating the wound with a whip and has ecstatic seizures from the pain. Geffner’s androgynous appearance, physical strength, and command of language make her a credible warrior.
Nick Sattinger as Neoptolemus and Eli Rarey as Odysseus are both effective in quiet moments when they are emotionally connected to what they are saying. This is especially true of the last scene in the play where Neoptolemus speaks. Other times, though, I think that director Filip Marinovich (who is also the playwright) has not yet found clear motives for his characters’ actions or justification for busy stage movement. At these moments, the action becomes frenetic and objectives get lost in yelling and screaming.
Interspersed with the plot, Patrick Roetzel is a one-man Greek chorus dressed like and resembling Rod Serling from "The Twilight Zone." His straight delivery, right out of a tourist brochure about the island of Lemnos, is a very funny touch. Also, Ahmed Khouja plays the xylophone and percussion to augment the action. Hannah Snyder-Beck plays Woundbird, a singing angel and hallucination.
I was confused about the Christian symbol of the angel in a vision and didn’t know the reason for it. Neither was I sure about the reason for over ten service desk bells on the stage that were rung often and seemingly at random. Was it to show a shift in tactic or change in mood? Time passing? I would be interested to know.