Thornton Wilder – The Skin of Our Teeth – Very Little Theatre

A mellow summer continues to provide peaceful space for pondering past and future travel adventures. With devastating wildfires, floods, migrant tragedies, and regional wars plaguing the world, being hidden away in leafy Oregon is comfortable. I’m working my way through a “to do” list, and trying to prune and tame the woodsy landscape surrounding my home. An option is allowing the native plants and trees to have their way and “go wild“. I’m not there yet, but each long trip brings me closer…

Very Little Theatre

Last weekend, I enjoyed a local performance of Thornton Wilder’s play, The Skin of Our Teeth, at Very Little Theatre (VLT). The brilliant play – described as a “crazy tragicomedy” and “cosmic allegory” – won Wilder the 1943 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. He completed it shortly after the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Very Little Theatre – Facebook


“The Skin of Our Teeth is about the repetitive nature of human history and a family that encounters the end of the world over and over and over again. To be on the brink of extinction and not only survive but invent and laugh and LIVE and LEARN, is extraordinary!” Blain-Cruz, Director


“Founded in 1929, VLT is one of the longest running, most successful community theatres in the US. Productions range from comedies to dramas and musicals.” The theatre offers a season with ten to fourteen or more performances per show. VLT’s 2023-24 season features:

Denise LaCroix, Dave Shaw, and Ashley Ecker – Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth Photo by Lifeslice Photography


Wilder “combines farce, burlesque, and satire with elements of the comic strip to depict an Everyman Family as it narrowly escapes one end-of-the-world disaster after another.”


The Skin of Our Teeth

“Set in three different historical time periods, Wilder’s play explores the resilience of humanity. Antrobus, his wife, and their two children encounter numerous difficulties.” Yet, they manage to “survive and adapt, showing that the human spirit can endure even the harshest of circumstances”. Miraculously, George not only saves the world from an apocalypse; but also furthers mankind by developing the alphabet, lever, and wheel!

Very Little Theatre – Eugene Scene

As the plot unravels, the audience becomes entangled in the evolving lives of the “eternal, time-traveling Antrobus family” from suburban New Jersey. Married for 5,000 years, George and Maggie Antrobus “bear more than a casual resemblance to that first husband and wife, Adam and Eve”. Their son Henry’s character is compared to Biblical Cain, the elder brother of Abel, and firstborn child of Adam and Eve.

The Antrobus family – from the Greek word anthropos meaning man – includes children, Gladys and Henry, and Sabrina, a cheeky, melodramatic maid who “breaks out of character to interrupt the course of the drama at every opportunity”.

Thornton Wilder American Playwright – AZQuotes

The Skin of Our Teeth is “similar to Wilder’s well-known first Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Our Town,” but it’s a little more complex. The plot includes a “double narrative – the story of the Antrobus family plus the story of the theater company putting on the play”. Despite its sometimes-grim subject matter, Wilder’s play is fun and leaves its audience laughing in a lighthearted, almost euphoric state.

This Internet link delves into some of the nuances and deeper meaning of Wilder’s creative masterpiece. The play is said to have been “influenced by James Joyce’s heady novel Finnegans Wake, German expressionism, vaudeville, and burlesque”.


Wilder’s play opened in 1942 – “less than a year after the United States entered World War II and on the heels of the Great Depression (1929-1939)”. The war meant “more sacrifice and hardship for the average American family, and another era of fear, loss, and anxiety about the future of humanity”.



“For an American dramatist, all roads lead back to Thornton Wilder…The Skin of Our Teeth was a remarkable gift to an America entrenched in catastrophe, a tribute to the trait of human endurance.” Paula Vogel, American Playwright


The talented cast and main characters below were exceptional:

I sat next to a retired couple – college professors of physics and art – who recently moved from Idaho to Oregon. They were great company, and I hope to see them at future performances. Unsurprisingly, the VLT house appeared to be sold out.

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