ASR Theater ~~ Thornton Wilder’s Charming, Epic-Length “Skin of Our Teeth”

By Joanne Engelhardt

In a way, Los Altos Stage Company’s production of The Skin of Our Teeth is somewhat like a Ringling Brothers three-ring circus: It’s got woolly mammoths, it’s got an Atlantic City seductress, and it has an ice wall pushing down from Canada into New Jersey.

Thornton Wilder’s 1942 Pulitzer Prize-winning play is about as close to an allegory of the entire history of the world ever attempted on stage. It gets a decent, if “mammoth-sized”, production, thanks to the efforts of director Chris Reber, five strong actors, and an interesting scenic design enhanced by Reber’s creative projection touches.

… “An antic ode to human resilience…”

It’s difficult to describe Skin in a few words because just when it seems to be veering toward sheer fantasy, something akin to pathos pops up. And though attempts are made to modernize it (like adding a few visual sound bites from TMZ), some might think it shows its age.


In any case, as the play opens, a beleaguered Mr. Antrobus is making his way home during a full-blown blizzard, exhausted but exhilarated after a hard day at the office doing such things as dividing M and N as he invents the alphabet. (He’s also inventing the lever and the wheel … …)

Michael Hirsch plays Mr. Antrobus with authority and a bit of wonder, especially when it comes to his family. As Mrs. Antrobus, Mary Hill is a neurotic marvel. She pops and twirls around with motherly authority in period dresses that float around her thanks to lots of crinoline petticoats.

(L-R) Kristin Walter and Olga Molona at work.

But first it’s the ditzy maid Sabina (a delightful Kristin Walters) who commands the audience’s attention. Using her little feather duster, she flits around the stage dusting this, that and whatever suits her fancy, including other people. She tells anyone who will listen that she can no longer stand being the Antrobus family’s maid and she gives Mrs. A her two-weeks’ notice. “That’s the law!” she smirks. Sabina’s also the character who breaks the fourth wall, talking directly to the audience and suggesting several times that a scene should be skipped. Irascible to the end, she guides us through the willful anachronisms of the play.  At one point, Mrs. A yells at Sabina because she (Sabina) apparently let the fire go out in the fireplace. Now, Mrs. A says, her family will freeze to death, so she sends Sabina out in the blizzard to gather more twigs.

Mary Hill and Michael Hirsch in “The Skin of Our Teeth”.

When Act 2 opens, the Antrobus family is now in Atlantic City on vacation and celebrating their 5,000th wedding anniversary. Mrs. A, carrying a purse large enough to hold a good-sized dog, says she’s delighted that her husband can enjoy a few days with the family and relax. He’s also there to give a speech and to announce the winner of the “Miss Atlantic City” beauty contest.

Turns out Kristin Walters (Sabina), now wearing a sexy bathing suit and cover-up, is the contest winner, and Mr. A is ready for a little extra-marital fling. Spoiler Alert: Mrs. A makes sure he doesn’t get the chance.

Four actors (LASC’s artistic director Gary Landis, Olga Molina, Patty Reinhart and Sam Kruger) play a number of ensemble roles. Molina stands out as the gypsy fortuneteller, and Landis is deadpan funny wearing a UPS uniform in short pants.

The Antrobus children, Henry (Max Mahle) and Gladys (a pert Emily Krayn) have very little stage time and only a few lines, so it’s difficult to judge their performances.

It’s likely most theatergoers will recognize that many of the things happening in the lives of the Antrobus family are still relevant today: Hoards of homeless people have nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat; a large poster states “Make Mammals Great Again,” and there’s a sequence where Mr. and Mrs. Antrobus attempt to herd various animals (some long extinct) into a ship (aka Noah’s Ark).

(L-R) Kristin Walter, Mary Hill, costumed Sam Kruger and Patty Reinhardt, and Gary Landis.

Kudos to Jonathan Covey for excellent sound,  to Aya Matsutomo for comprehensive lighting, Yusuke Soi for good scenic design, and Miranda Whipple’ for zany props (a gargantuan “A” is part of the Antrobus’ living room décor.)

However, the production team ‘s decision to combine Acts 2 and 3 into one “Act 2” (with only “one brief pause”), the play’s overall length (~2 hours and 45 minutes), and the play’s period dialog and sexual politics–might be a stretch for some modern audience members.

In the end, Skin is a rallying cry for a world that could use some reassurance that it will, despite everything, carry on — even if by “The Skin of Our Teeth.”


Aisle Seat Executive Reviewer Joanne Engelhardt is a Peninsula theatre writer and critic. She is a voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC). Contact:


ProductionThe Skin of Our Teeth
Written byThornton Wilder
Directed byChris Reber
Producing CompanyLos Altos Stage Co.
Production DatesThru May 5th
Production Address97 Hillview Ave., Los Altos, CA
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Aisle Seat Review PICK?-------

ASR Theater ~~ Pointillism on Point in LASC’s “Sunday in the Park with George”

By Joanne Engelhardt

For its current production of Sunday in the Park with George, Los Altos Stage Company turned its proscenium into a gold frame – a very large gold frame, thanks to the efforts of scenic designer Skip Epperson.

The James Lapine-Steven Sondheim musical gets a credible showing at LASC, despite the relatively small stage available to the actors and set pieces. The musicians are hidden behind a wall that includes several screens representing some of the artwork created by French artist Georges Seurat, who almost singlehandedly established the technique of Pointillism in 1886. Lapine apparently preferred to use the Americanized version of his name in his play.

Director Alex Perez chose his 14 actors with precision, not so much in their physical appearance as for their strong characterizations. It’s certainly not easy for each of the actors to portray two distinct characters, yet most came through with flying colors.

…JoAnn Birdsall’s costumes add another rich layer to this production. The sound, light, and props are equally important parts…

Act 1 takes place in 1884 when Georges is attempting to hone his painting style by separating out different aspects of his art: “White, a blank page or canvas. The challenge: bring order to the whole, through design, composition, tension, balance, light and harmony.”

Alycia Adame as Dot and Rob Cadwallader as George Seurat. Photo by Christian Pizzirani.

As the play begins, Seurat’s model and live-in girlfriend Dot (Alycia Adame) is standing at the park wearing a tight corset and gown, complaining how hot it is to be out in the sun and begging Seurat to let her stand in the shade.

His response: “Don’t move. Look out at the sea!” She begrudgingly complies until finally surprising the audience by stepping away from the dress (which stands up all by itself!) and telling him she won’t pose any longer.

Alycia Adame as Dot, Rob Cadwallader as George Seurat and Linda Piccone as Old Lady. Photo by Christian Pizzirani.

This give-and-take is pretty indicative of their relationship, which eventually ends because Seurat clearly values working on his art far more than he does spending time with her. She begins dating the baker, Louis (played by Bryan Moriarty, in four roles), whom she later marries and has a child – something she’s always wanted.

There are a number of other fine performances here including Penelope DaSilva as a very spoiled child, Louise, who ignores her mother and annoys people who are trying to enjoy a Sunday in the park. Other standouts: Andrew Kracht as the “live” Toy Soldier; Linda Piccone as both Georges’ mother and as Blair Daniels in Act 2, and Kate Matheson as Celeste.

Sunday’s score has at least 15 songs, so an orchestra is as essential as the actors. Brian Allan Hobbs leads a small, five-person orchestra from behind the scenery with just a small opening that allows the actors to begin singing at the right moment. Some of Sondheim’s best here are “”Sunday” (of course!), “We Do Not Belong Together,” “Putting it Together,” “It’s Hot Up Here” and “Move On.”

JoAnn Birdsall’s costumes add another rich layer to this production. The sound, light, and props are equally important parts.

Cast of Sunday in the Park with George. Photo by Christian Pizzirani.

The clear highlight is what’s known as the “tableau” that ends Act 1. This is when all the actors in Act 1 line up precisely where Georges wants them in order to recreate his most famous painting, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.”

(NOTE: Some performances have been cancelled due to a cast member contracting COVID. Check LASC website for available dates.)


Aisle Seat Executive Reviewer Joanne Engelhardt is a Peninsula theatre writer and critic. She is a voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC). Contact:


ProductionSunday in the Park with George
Music & Lyrics byStephen Sondheim
Book byJames LaPine
Directed byAlex Perez
Producing CompanyLos Altos Stage Company
Production DatesThru June 25th
Production AddressBus Barn 97 Hillview Avenue, Los Altos
Telephone(650) 941-0551
Tickets$20 - $40
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Aisle Seat Review Pick?----

Pick! ASR Theater ~~ LASC’s Exquisite “Harold and Maude”

By Joanne Engelhardt


Los Altos Stage Company’s executive artistic director Gary Landis came up with a winning formula for their production of Harold and Maude, which opened April 14 and runs through May 7.

Landis relates that he decided to include Harold and Maude in the 2022-23 season because it was the 50th anniversary of the beloved movie of the same name. LASC produced the same show (with the same actor playing Maude) eight years ago.

It’s easy to see why. That actor, Lillian Bogovich. personifies the “almost 80-year-old Maude” in look, sound and manner. Her own long, gray-streaked hair looks exactly how an aging hippie would style her hair, and her low, gravelly voice is precisely right for the role. That she is able to appear guileless and even childlike makes her characterization complete.

As Harold, the boyish Max Mahle is every bit Bogovich’s acting equal – though his innocent-looking face conceals a troubled youth who acts out in the most perverse, devilish ways possible. Those diabolical pranks are sometimes the works of Landis’ clever scenic projections, while other times are simply a matter of good-old-fashioned magic tricks.

Max Mahle and Lillian Bogovich. Photo credit: Christian Pizzirani

As the play begins, Harold’s haughty upper-class mother, Mrs. Chasen (a marvelous characterization by Katelyn Miller), is showing her new maid (Erika Racz) around the house, explaining to her what her household duties will be. They enter the Chasen living room and the maid looks out the large backyard window to discover a body hanging from a branch of a tree.

It’s Harold, yet Mrs. Chasen pays her son no mind. She revives the poor maid and tells her that her son has “staged his own suicide at least fifteen times.” She arranges for psychiatrist Dr. Matthews (an earnest Steve Althoff) to come to the house to chat with Harold. After a few uncomfortable minutes together, Dr. Matthews tells Mrs. Chasen that Harold will soon grow out of it, and decides to leave.

Next up is the sweet, pious priest (a perfectly cast Jonathan Covey). He first meets Harold at his parish where the young man is attending a funeral. When the priest asks Harold how he knows the deceased, Harold looks at him innocently and says he doesn’t. “I just like to attend funerals,” he says matter-of-factly.

Fifteen times he’s staged his own suicide….

Asked what he likes to do for fun, Harold says in all sincerity: “I go to funerals.” But Mrs. Chasen has other plans for her son: She finds a dating app and arranges for three young women to come to the house to meet Harold. She’s so anxious for Harold to find a young woman he likes and wants to spend time with.

That’s when Michelle Skinner gets her moment in the spotlight. She plays all three young ladies (Sylvie, Nancy and the hippie Sunshine Dore), but Harold makes a resolute effort to scare each one out of their wits. The result: All three get out of the Chasen house in short order.

Max Mahle (standing), Lillian Bogovich (upside down). Photo credit: Christian Pizzirani

To his mother’s amazement, Harold suddenly starts dressing nicer and talking about someone he met who has the same interests he does. He even met her at a funeral!

He’s talking about the sweet, kind, totally artless Maude. One of the best scenes in an already fabulous production is when Mrs. Chasen goes to Maude’s house to meet the “young girl” who has so smitten her son. The look on her face when she discovers that the older-than-she Maude is the “girl” Harold loves is simply priceless.

If you want an absolutely terrific evening of theatre, call LASC or go online to get tickets before this show is completely sold out.


Aisle Seat Executive Reviewer Joanne Engelhardt is a Peninsula theatre writer and critic. She is a voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC). Contact:


ProductionHarold and Maude
Book byColin Higgin
Directed byGary Landis
Producing CompanyLos Altos Stage Company
Production DatesThru May 7th
Production AddressBus Barn 97 Hillview Avenue, Los Altos
Telephone(650) 941-055
Tickets$32 - $40
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Aisle Seat Review Pick?YES!