A well-acted ‘Skin Tight’ at COR Theatre only scratches the surface

Tony Bozzuto and Tosha Fowler share a moment of passion in COR Theatre’s “Skin Tight.” Photo credit: Victoria Deiorio

“And then my life flashed before my eyes.” While a cliché, have you actually had this happen to you? I have. On a horribly turbulent plane a few years ago. And it’s funny the things that stuck out. The highs, the lows, the regrets, the wasted time, the laughter. The one and only time I did drag.

Skin Tight, a 60-minute power play by Gary Henderson which is receiving its Chicago premiere by the brand new COR Theatre company, condenses a pair of lives down to the bare bones. From the explosive opening sequence where Tosha Fowler and Tony Bozzuto spar with each either like a couple of ‘roided cage fighters (outstanding fight choreography by Scott Cummins and Julia Neary fearlessly executed by the pair) to the sensuous and devastating final moments, this is a disturbingly dysfunctional romantic life, lived to the max. Punches dissolve into passion, guilt evolves into giddiness. Every conflicting emotion makes a fleeting guest appearance.

Victoria Deiorio’s direction and sound design are precise and impressive. Fowler and Bozzuto give fierce and potent performances (with visible bruising as a testament to their commitment to character). For me, the problem is the play. With SO MUCH happening over the course of a breakneck 60 minutes, by the time the deep emotional moments happen, they feel unearned. You’re left observing a life from a safely removed distance. Henderson has some smart things to say about the cognitive dissonance between carnal passion and pragmatic decision making, but I felt like I never got a real chance to know these people. I just felt sorry for them.

Ok, sure, the play’s the thing, right? But if the quality of acting and dedication to tone are any indication, COR Theatre has the potential to punch Chicago’s theatre community square in the gut. I’m greatly looking forward to their next phase.

“Skin Tight” plays through September 25 at A Red Orchid Theatre. More info here >

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