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The Skin of Our Teeth 

Since it's so well known, I shouldn't need to remind you that Thorton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth is just about as wonderful a play as was ever written.

Concerning the Antrobus family of Excelsior, N.J., the play follows their survival through the Ice Age, the Great Flood and a nameless war standing in for All Wars. The Antrobuses are, obviously, surrogates for all humanity, and Skin is a testament to our instinctual drive to survive.

What's so remarkable is that the theatrical conceits Wilder uses are probably as dazzling as when the show debuted. Imagine sitting in the audience in 1942 on opening night as Tallulah Bankhead (in a scripted bit, but you don't know that at the time) walks to the footlights and bitches how much she hates being in the show. In what may be the first appearance of meta-theatricality on the commercial stage, Wilder uses the ups, downs and disasters of putting on a show as a metaphor for the ups, downs and disasters of civilization.

And funny? Don't get me started on funny. The Antrobuses are relentlessly suburban, and Wilder sets them down in the middle of a burlesque world, their four-square lives farcically contrasted with the lunacy around them.

If nothing else, the Point Park University production places front and center the brilliance of Wilder's words, wit and wisdom. This version is built like a tank, and Shirley Tannenbaum's strong student cast never lets us forget the person responsible for dreaming up this world.

The energy may be a bit slack at times, and for a family constantly on the brink of extinction the stakes aren't nearly as high as they should be. But Tannenbaum and crew are to be commended for their complete dedication to Wilder and this classic of the American theater.

The Skin of Our Teeth continues through Sun., Feb. 11. Pittsburgh Playhouse, 222 Craft Ave., Oakland. 412-621-4445

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