Community theater comes alive in the Providence Players’ production of "The Skin of Our Teeth," at the Frost Middle School theater in Fairfax. On weekends in October, they tackle everything from biblical nuances to prehistoric eras and war in a production that, at times, will make the head spin.
Fairfax County Supervisor Gerald Connolly (D-Providence) plays a politician in Scene 2 at the Atlantic City, N.J. Boardwalk. He sums up the story line: "The message is, we will get through this, life is a cycle."
Fairfax resident Marilyn Mchugh is a follower of the community troupe. She's also seen “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “Born Yesterday” and three one-act plays the Players did last spring.
"This is the most bizarre story I've ever seen, but it takes real talent to pull this off," she said.
Burke resident Karie Mulkowsky was in to see co-worker Beth Rodgers, who played Gladys, the daughter of antagonists Mr. And Mrs. Antrobus. Mulkowsky and Rodgers both work at Merrifield Garden Center.
"I like it a lot. It flows really well. The political immorality, they made it humorous," she said.
Bret Rogerson of Herndon had a harder time linking one scene to another.
"It's a little tricky to follow," he said.
THE FIRST SCENE opens with the typical American family, narrated by a chamber maid, Sabina, fluttering a feather duster, played by Tina Thronson. Sabina had a repeating line, which left the audience at a standstill not knowing whether to applaud or look for the exit door.
Everyone was freezing, there was no wood for the fire and neighbors in need of a warm place were pounding on the door.
"We came through the Depression by the skin of our teeth. One more tight squeeze like that and where will we be?" she said, three or four times.
That scene incorporated dinosaurs on the lawn, the Ice Age, Moses, Cain and Abel, as well as the invention of the wheel.
Scene 2 is a politicians' forum on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, N.J., complete with marriage infidelity, a thunderstorm and Noah's Ark. Miss Atlantic City 1942, aka Miss Fairweather (Thronson), tempts George Antrobus. Esmeralda, the Cajun fortune teller, played by Michelle Chapman-Campbell, fuels the temptation. Periodically, the production skips between the story on stage and reality, with Sabina telling the audience why a scene was skipped or arguing that takes place between the director and the actors.
Scene 3 starts out in a foggy haze where an accident supposedly occurs backstage. It is explained to the audience that stage extras — the usher and seamstress — will be playing the roles instead of the cast. Then it skips right back to the regular cast.
This scene deals with war. The particular war is hard to determine, but playwright Thornton Wilder wrote the play during World War II, so it is assumed to be that time frame. Antrobus' son Henry, played by Jim Gertzog, is a victim of the evils of war and takes it out on all. At one point, Gladys holds her new baby up and says, "And show them we don't have to be afraid anymore."
"I think it's an optimistic message," Connolly said afterward.
Susan Schwartz is involved with the group, along with her husband, Dave, who is in a lot of the productions. Their children helped design the sets as well as usher. The couple met in theater at college.
"My husband and I got involved because of the professionalism," she said.
They saw one production and were hooked.
"David said, 'It's time to get back in theater,'" she said.
THE PROVIDENCE PLAYERS, who started off as the Mantua PTA Players, formed in 1998, with "You Can't Take It With You." Their next project, "Macbeth Did It," attracted more than 1,000 fans over the span of four performances. They grew from there, becoming the Frost Players before adopting their present name. They are currently working with Fairfax County to develop a partnership at the James Lee Community Center, which is currently under renovation. The Players hope to make that their home in the 2003-04 season.