As a gay Jew, one would think that the original play Skintight currently playing at the Geffen Playhouse and starring Broadway icon Idina Menzel (Wicked, Frozen) would be right up my alley. The comedy is about Menzel’s character, Jodi, who retreats to her dad’s Manhattan townhouse for his 70th birthday after her ex-husband gets engaged to a much younger woman. When she arrives, she finds her aging father’s new live-in boyfriend, Trey, who is 20, the same age as her queer son, who is also on the way to New York to celebrate his Grandpa’s birthday.
The first important thing to note for any Idina superfans like me is that this show is not a musical. I knew that going in, but it seemed like not everyone did. Menzel is a very talented actress, especially when it comes to comedy, so seeing her is still worth the price of admission. However, much like the disappointment Idina fans experienced when we realized that she would not be singing in Disney’s 2007 feature Enchanted, I want to call out the lack of singing in this project as well.
Skintight tackles some interesting subjects and tells a story that isn’t often told on a mainstream stage. The press release reads, “In his new comedy, playwright Joshua Harmon brings neurotic family drama to the forefront as father and daughter contend with the age-old questions of how to age gracefully in a world obsessed with youth and where love fits into it all.”
Neurotic is definitely the correct word to use, and being from a tight-knit Jewish family myself, I relate to the often crazy-seeming cultural dynamics that come into play here. May-December relationships are pretty common among many gay men, so it’s fascinating to see the dysfunctional but successful May-December gay relationship contrasted with the crumbling of Jodi’s heterosexual one, ironically due to her own partner leaving her for someone younger. Heterosexual women often talk about the pressures to stay youthful, but it’s less talked about among gay and bi men. Obsessing over our looks and longing to stay young is definitely common in the LGBTQ community, so it’s nice to see this explored on the dramatic stage.
Menzel shines here, showcasing real comedic chops, as does Eli Gelb, who plays her son. Gelb perfectly balances his character’s teenage-like apathy with his love for his family and his youthful zest to explore his sexuality. My only criticism of the play is that it’s a bit unclear in its intentions. What point is it trying to make? Without giving anything away, the narrative ends without real resolution or lessons learned by anyone. Perhaps that’s the lesson in itself, that family isn’t always easy but if you support each other, that’s all that matters.
Still, the show tackles some heavy questions that it just never answers, like why a 70-year old man would want to date a 20-year old in the first place. Harmon’s previous original plays include Bad Jews, Significant Other and Admissions so one might expect more fleshed out ideas. Lack of life lessons aside, the play is still extremely entertaining and I laughed out loud numerous times. As I continually like to remind readers in this column, representation matters, so the star power on stage and subject matter make Skintight a worthy night at the theater. And any story about queer Jews is better than no stories at all.
Skintight runs through Sunday, October 6 at the Gil Cates Theater at Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave. Tickets and more information: https://www.geffenplayhouse.org