Under My Skin
performed at the Pasadena Playhouse
Reviewed by Dawn Garcia – OPENING NIGHT
Under My Skin can best be described as a transparent look at today’s healthcare system, the unrelenting stream of apathy running amuck, the discourse between male and female dynamics, the difficulties of being single parents raising children, children caring for the elderly, and the harsh truth that life is fraught with challenges, setbacks, and an unrelenting pursuit of accepting that perhaps we’ve given up on our dreams along the way. Acclaimed writers and producers Robert Sternin and Prudence Frasier have created a play that is relevant to us all in some way or another. The brutal honesty, the uncomfortable moments, the sadistic humor, the misguided love, the need to feel what we do matters, the reality of what is and the raw grit of what isn’t is why this story is something of a revelation.
From the moment the cast of Matt Walton, Tim Bagley, Erin Cardillo, Hal Linden, and Yvette Cason step onto the stage, it’s clear this is going to be a performance that will be anything but boring. With a stellar cast of both familiar and emerging talent, the premise is that the one thing we know about life, love, and living within a corrupt healthcare system is we don’t know much.
The Story: The complicated relationship of a single mother raising a teenage daughter and the inevitable angst and struggle in saving face, the caring for her grandfather that is battling selective memory loss and the failing healthcare system with a wonderfully sarcastic sense of humor, a pompous self loving Healthcare CEO who cares more about the bonus checks and top line than about the people he “represents”, a wildly amusing but not-going-to-do-much-in-life best friend, and an angel that is, well, not readily available, this story is far more complex than you’d imagine.
I had the pleasure of going on opening night and it was an absolute honor. Having arrived 30 minutes prior to showtime, I was able to enjoy a glass of red wine, mingle with guests, have truly lovely conversation with the wonderful Doris Roberts and Jack Betts, shared a water bottle mishap with the funny and beautiful Jennifer Coolidge, and saw art in the same room with Priscilla Presley. The night was full of art lovers, theatre savants, and locals coming out to support the beautiful and thankfully, still thriving, world of theatre. It is one of the purest forms of performance art, the greatest release for an actor, a beautiful stage set by writers, and a reason to encourage an audience to explore the true nature of their imaginations.
The Performance: Erin Cardillo takes a huge leap onto the stage with an astounding performance that is a far cry from her role on the Suite Life on Deck. Ms. Cardillo performs with complete abandon embracing her character, Melody Dent, with sheer fervor. She gives the her the heart, compassion, honesty, sexuality, curiosity, and complexity she deserves. “Melody” is a single mom raising a teenage daughter played by the very talented, Danielle Soibelman. Danielle plays “Casey” who is feisty, angry, and thinks her mom is an annoyance – basically, she plays the teenage daughter to a tee. Melody” is also taking care of her grandfather that is continually battling the healthcare system, how they treat the elderly, and the continual reminder he’s not getting any younger. The grandfather is played by the masterfully refined, Hal Linden. “Papa” is a character that manages to find the humor in frustrating situations and, as a loving grandfather should, believes Melody deserves the world. The story between those three pivotal characters allows the mundane “every day” to be entirely familiar and miraculously encouraging.
Matt Walton plays the pompous, greedy, healthcare mogul, Harrison Baddish. He embodies a character that is one most anyone in this nation would love to hate. Consumed by his growing wealth and little concern for those he insures, he’s about to get a rude awakening. A seemingly normal day at the office – until he meets his new temp, Melody – and everything changes when they, by sheer fate, manage to get on a plummeting elevator together. As the story unravels, we find the two have plummeted to their death only to be saved by an angel who, may or may not have, killed them prematurely. After the angel, played by Yvette Cason, has a talk with the boss (“god”), she agrees to give them back their lives but something goes wrong in the “reanimation”. Upon reaching the surface and waking up in hospital beds, Melody and Harrison realize their bodies have been switched and are now inhabiting one another’s! Horrified and tragically funny, the story only goes up from there.
With the wild and always entertaining Tim Bagley who plays a myriad of roles, the stage is alive with funny, touching, raw, honest, unfiltered story that can’t help but seep into everyone sitting in the audience. It was a brilliantly written play. One in which the audience is treated like they’re capable of understanding a rather complex issue facing all of us today with the continual demise of our healthcare system, the ongoing battle of the sexes, the ever present reality of single parenting, power hungry corporations rising while the bulk of the economy falls, and the sheer melodrama now brought to us by so-called news reporters. With more laughs than I expected, this performance was a breath of fresh air.