Peeling back the layers of SKIN

photo by Bjorn Bolinder

Skin is the body’s largest organ. According to National Geographic, human bodies would literally evaporate without it. Our skin is made of many layers that protect us; insulating us and guarding us from the elements.

Skin is also something that we obsess over as a society. There is constantly new advertising for the latest and greatest skin care products. We’re told to do anything and everything to make our skin look brighter, clearer, and younger. It is innately human to crave the touch of it. Showing a little skin can make us feel sexy or it can make us feel uneasy and vulnerable.

Broken Box Mime Theater (BKBX) takes on the subject of skin in the company’s Off-Broadway return at A.R.T./New York Theatres (502 West 53rd Street and 10th Avenue). Led by Artistic Director Becky Baumwoll, the company has created a collection of short stories meant to examine the subject of skin from every angle.

While overall the company lacked technique which resulted in blurry narratives, BKBX makes an honorable effort to carry on pantomime’s lineage. I appreciated how creative BKBX got with their interpretations of “skin”. Ranging from an artist sculpting the human body, to a group of friends skinny dipping in a lake together, to a striptease resulting in literal ‘shedding of skin,’ they certainly thought outside of their broken box.

I wonder, however, if “Connection” would have been a more fitting title for this collection of stories. I found the most moving moments of the show to be when the ensemble was exploring connection (or lack thereof). Narratives about a woman who ends up joining a cult because it made her feel less alone and a teen entering a virtual reality simulation to remove himself from an unhappy home life don’t exactly have anything to do with flesh, but have everything to do with feeling lost and craving a connection.

These days, skin seems to be dividing us more than connecting us. A snap judgement based on skin or an unwanted touch happens more often than many would like to admit. Broken Box Mime Theater attempts to “release the ego in performance” by using a universal uniform: all black clothing and a white mime mask. Wearing the mask in no way erases the company’s differences, but rather unites them as they all create together on a level playing field.

I left the show with one take away: What if we all spent a little less time talking and a little more time connecting? Maybe that connection is skin, or maybe it’s seeing past it in order to fully realize our humanity.

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