Gary Henderson’s Skin Tight is as much a piece of lyrical poetry as it is a play. It’s also likely to be the most physical performance — wonderfully staged and choreographed by director Drew Fracher — you’ll see onstage in this Cincinnati theater season. Know Theatre’s 2010-11 season opener is brief — about 60 minutes of performance — taking you on an emotional, passionate journey that’s both a lifetime and the blink of an eye.
Although set in rural New Zealand with references to local places and mid-20th-century events and featuring characters who speak with Kiwi accents, Skin Tight really happens in a place of no time — or, rather, a timeless place. Roughhewn boards suggest a barn; an opening is awash with light that changes to underscore emotions ebbing and flowing. (Andrew Hungerford served as both scenic and lighting designer with evocative results.)
From the shocking first moment, when Beth Harris (as Elizabeth) and Jens Rasmussen (as Tom) fling themselves at one another with startling brutality, this ardent couple explores their long relationship physically, violently, emotionally and pleasurably.
They wrestle literally and emotionally, and we sense that they’re on the brink of a passage, referenced by Elizabeth in her first line, “I have to go.” But her departure is delayed, multiplied, elaborated and enhanced by Henderson’s spare, poignant script — few words, many actions and metaphors using a handful of simple props (buckets of water, a pocket knife, an apple).
Harris, a veteran Cincinnati actor and singer, has a glittering spark of defiance and fierce warmth that shines forth from Elizabeth’s defiant core.
Rasmussen’s sly smile and understated delivery give Tom a fundamental honesty and an irresistible charm.
Skin Tight is driven by the exquisite sensuality of being touched. In a scant hour, you’ll know this pair, love them and be profoundly touched yourself.
SKIN TIGHT, presented by Know Theatre of Cincinnati, continues through Oct. 30. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.