Review: “Skintight” with Idina Menzel Tackles the Taut Attractions and Aging

Harry Groener, Idina Menzel, Eli Gelb and Will Brittain. Photo by Chris Whitaker

Daniel Aukin directs Tony award winner Idina Menzel (Rent, Wicked) in her first non-singing role as Jodi Isaac, recently divorced and depressed about her ex-husband’s engagement to a much younger woman. To avoid being around for the festivities, she decides to fly to NY and visit her wealthy father. At the start of the play she just has arrived in New York seeking comfort from her very successful father, Elliot Isaac (Harry Groener, Cats, Oklahoma!), a famous designer in the mold of Calvin Klein. He’s a rather chilly character about to turn 70 and not thrilled that his daughter is crashing his birthday plans with his latest live-in boyfriend, 20-year-old Trey.

Will Brittain and Harry Groener. Photo by Chris Whitaker

“I don’t do labels,” says Trey (the impressive Will Brittain, Savage Youth, Desolate) when asked if he’s gay. “I’m not anything. I’m just Trey.” And he doesn’t need to be anything more than just Trey—buff, golden, sexy Trey, barely out of his teens and happy to be the trophy stud of a generous man 50 years his senior. Their relationship mortifies Elliot’s daughter, but Jodi’s pathetic attempts to squeeze some paternal affection out of her emotionally withholding dad doesn’t stand a chance against Trey’s youth and beauty. (“I’d like to sleep on sheets made from your skin,” Elliott says to Trey, and probably means it).

Harry Groener, Idina Menzel, Eli Gelb and Will Brittain. Photo by Chris Whitaker

Jodi’s 20 year old son Benjamin (Eli Gelb, Indignation, HBO’s Newsroom) is also visiting, Gay himself, and on a break from studying “queer theory” in Budapest, he finds himself inevitably drawn to his grandfather’s new lover, especially since the muscular Trey has a habit of hanging out in the living room late at night wearing only a jockstrap. Gelb steals the show with his own brand of Jewish/Queer humor, the comedic timing impeccable.

Jeff Skowron (The Lion King, South Pacific) is heartbreaking as “Jeff”, Elliot’s former lover-turned-butler. He manages to convey his whole sad existence with just a few lines. The production design is a major element in the play. Lauren Helpern’s coolly elegant two story living room is a designer’s dream in shades of gray, something one would expect to see in Architectural Digest and that screams Calvin Klein (who apparently inspired the play). Writer Joshua Harmon gets good mileage out of Jewish anxiety and discomfort and effectively seizes on our consuming fixation with appearance and age. Still, his humorous insights on our obsession with youth and beauty in “Skintight” bares some ugly truths that speak to us all.

— Victor Riobo

Skintight plays at the Geffen Playhouse, through 10/12/2019, Tickets HERE.