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BWW Review: UNDER THE SKIN Gets Under the Skin

It's clear to me that Everyman Theatre company actor Megan Anderson knows her craft and performs it exceptionally well, given how she brought her character, Raina, to life in playwright Michael Hollinger's "Under the Skin." That's because I had to restrain myself, several times, from shouting from my seat that she was an ungrateful, affected, pretentious, New Agey, annoying Millennial (expletive), a particular demographic for which I have a Saudi-Arabian-oil-reserve-size dislike.

Technically, I'm a Baby Boomer (I was born in 1962 and by some measures, that puts me in Boomerville) so I have a burning fire of "darn-kids-get-off-my-lawn-I'm-watching-MATLOCK" in me which Anderson's Raina most definitely stoked. What can you say about a daughter who won't give her dying father (Mitchell Hebert's Lou) a kidney?

Granted, it's not like asking someone to borrow five bucks or to take out the garbage. It's a pretty intimate, indepth and invasive request. And when the person asking doesn't have the best track record as a father, and the person being asked is a single mom who is a neurotic mess of run-on sentences and memory lapses, lactose intolerance, yoga-teacher-references and bad life choices, well, it's a disaster in the making...but only for Raina and Lou, not for the audience, which delighted in the moments of Shakespearean-style comedy (not everyone is whom they appear) as well as the parent-child-angst that makes "Under the Skin" as much a play about the heart as it does the kidney.

Alice M. Gatling and Keith L. Royal Smith round out the cast and each plays more than one role, Smith doing double duty as the Island-Mahn-accented nurse Hector and as Jarrell, Raina's one-day-lover and next day...well, no spoilers here...and Gatling, triple duty as Jarrell's mother, Marlene; Lou's physician, Uganda-native Dr. Badu, and finally as a Starbucks-style barista with the patience of a saint...and yes, that patience comes into play trying to deal with Raina.

"Under the Skin" uses a device that I've noticed has become more common in modern plays, the tendency of characters to interact with the audience and speak to them directly. I'm not a huge fan of this device which can interfere with the illusion being created on stage as each break from the action is a reminder that this is in fact, a play, and not a slice of reality to which we happen to be privy. That being said, if viewed as a reflection of Raina's uber-introspective and somewhat chaotic mind, these moments of commentary are fitting enough, and delivered with sufficient humor as to be entertaining.

Don't expect characters experiencing earth-shattering evolution. "Under the Skin" isn't so much about how people change, but more about how people's perceptions of those around them do.

Kudos to set designer Brandon McNeel whose minimalist, modular design creates everything from a Philadelphia hospital room, to a still-living-at-home bachelor's bedroom (complete with STAR WARS bedspread), to a coffee shop to a living room and other locations, all believable and engaging.

Director Vincent M. Lancisi's keeps the tempo brisk, a quick pace which is aided by the fact that you won't find any Hamlet-style soliloquies in "Under the Skin," just plenty of punchlines and revelations that pack a punch.

"Under the Skin" continues its run at the Everyman Theatre, 315 W. Fayette Street in downtown Baltimore, now through Feb. 21st. Tickets are $10-$60. To order, call 410-752-2208 or visit www.everymantheatre.org.


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From This Author Daniel Collins