Hey ladies, ever find yourself thinking “I’d like to see him handle cramps that rival darts being launched at your stomach every month”? Chances are yes. And gentlemen, ever feel women just don’t get the mysterious, sometimes involuntary, ways of the penis? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, Under My Skin is the show for you.
In cinematic terms, Under My Skin is a modern day Freaky Friday. Just replace the mother and daughter with a male boss and his female employee, throw in a sex scene and trip to the gynecologist, and call it a day. Melody Dent (Kerry Butler) is a loving, yet unassertive woman who is working part time, a.k.a. working without benefits, for the very rich, very smug Harrison Badish III (Matt Walton). While she has an extremely sick father (Edward James Hyland) and an angst-ridden teenage daughter (Allison Strong) to take care of, he has few concerns beyond making sure his scotch supply is intact. As Melody holds a cup of coffee for Harrison on the elevator, a malfunction occurs and the two of them plummet to their “would be” demise. In a realm that borders death and life they meet Angel (Dierdre Friel), a spunky member of God’s corporation who after checking the paperwork realizes their time has not yet come. After warning that one of them is approaching their expiration date, she sends them back to reality. A reality where Mr. Badish can ask for directions and Ms. Dent can produce sperm.
While it took a minute or two (or ten) to get into the swing of things, once the switch occurred the play really took off. When dealing with a storyline that involves two people switching bodies, it is easy to grab hold of the common clichéd issues that both parties would face and run with them. While there were a few foreseeable gags thrown into the mix, as a whole I found the scenarios to be extremely funny and genuine. Does it end the way you think it does? Yes. But even though the ending is predictable and wrapped up somewhat hastily, I have always been someone who enjoys the journey more than the destination. And these actors have the talent to take you on a fun-filled, if not occasionally bumpy for the sake of humor, ride.
As a whole, I commend the cast on their ability to convey comedy with as much heart as humor. Kerry Butler’s handle on the love scene, Edward James Hyland’s endearing take on being old and sick, and Matt Walton’s vulnerable yet firm approach to his gyno exam are just a few instances that show these actors are really on their game. Additionally, I would be remiss if I did not applaud Dierdre Friel on her knack for working the audience into the show without skipping a beat. Or giving kudos to Kate Loprest for her ability to flow from character to character, giving them all a distinct (and hysterical) manner and voice. While I am never a fan of the “sexually charged, over the top best friend” character that makes its way into many shows both onscreen and onstage, I tip my hat to Megan Sikora for approaching the role guns blazing. For those who like that type of character, I predict you will enjoy what she has to offer. Same goes for Allison Strong’s “bratty teenager who realizes the error of her ways right before her mom undergoes surgery” performance.
Bottom line, this is a play worth seeing. Even if only to witness Melody Dent tackle her first (but certainly not last) erection.
UNDER MY SKIN- Written by Robert Sternin and Prudence Fraser; directed by Kirsten Sanderson.
WITH: Kerry Butler (Melody Dent), Edward James Hyland (Poppa Sam), Allison Strong (Casey Dent), Megan Sikora (Nanette), Matt Walton (Harrison Badish III), Kate Loprest (Victoria and others), Andrew Polk (Dr. Hurtz and others) and Dierdre Friel (Angel).
Sets by Stephen Dobay; costumes by Lara de Bruijn; lighting by Driscoll Otto; sound by Janie Bullard; produced by Black Ink Productions. Presented by Marla McNally Phillips, Marcy Carsey, Tap Dance Productions, SB Players, Richard & Luci Janssen and PUM Productions. At Little Shubert Theatre, 422 West 42nd Street, Manhattan; 855-811-5634, undermyskintheplay.com. Opens May 15. Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission.