So many people came to celebrate the opening night of “Skintight” that instead of maneuvering through the thick crowds beside the bar, buffet tables and various seating areas inside Napa Valley Grille, Idina Menzel and several other cast members ducked out the front door and re-entered through the back patio to gather for photos and cocktail chatter.
After Thursday’s West Coast premiere of playwright Joshua Harmon’s “Skintight” at the Gil Cates Theater in the Geffen Playhouse, theater donors, board members, friends, other actors and more VIPs joined the cast for cocktails and a late-night supper at the Westwood restaurant.
After hearing about her 50-year-old ex-husband’s engagement to a 24-year-old woman, Jodi Isaac (Idina Menzel) flees from Los Angeles to her father’s apartment in New York, hoping for comfort and sympathy. Instead she finds her father (Harry Groener), who is about to turn 70, living with a hunky 20-year-old boyfriend (Will Brittain).
Directed by Daniel Aukin, the comedy explores the challenges of love, lust and aging in a world that places a high value on youth and beauty. Added to the mix are Isaac’s son (Eli Gelb), her father’s houseman (Jeff Skowron) and the maid (Kimberly Jürgen).
Maura Tierney, Will Von Vogt, Ruy Iskandar, Vella Lovell and Evan Jonigkeit — all cast members of “Witch,” which is playing at the Geffen’s adjacent Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater — joined the party, as did actors Andrew Rannells, Dana Delany, Jon Tenney and Jonigkeit’s wife, Zosia Mamet.
In a quiet room — and later beside the patio — cast members shared a few thoughts on the play. Said Menzel, “I think of [the play] as a debate between love and lust and what makes people feel alive in this world.” She then added, “Of course, I can relate to that, being in my 40s and getting older. Every day I look in the mirror and I see something I don’t like but I also know I’m more experienced now, and my career seems to be doing better at this age. I have more of an understanding of who I am and I tend to attract more creative people around me that are so supportive and smarter than ever before.”
Groener said he relates to his character because they’re both artists, “but I relate to the aging part as well.” He then said jokingly, “I say to my wife, ‘I just can’t stand this.’ I say, ‘Just stop aging.’ I say, ‘Stop right now,’ but it seems to get worse every day.”
“It’s a really smart play in a lot of ways,” Gelb said. “It does so many things all at once. It’s about aging. It’s about family. It’s about insecurities. It’s about acceptance, and it’s about how all that relates.”
“The play is so well-written and so well-crafted that I have little to say in it, but the things I say tell what’s going on,” Skowron said.
“The roots of the play are in the different ways people love each other,” Brittain said. “Not everybody loves each other in the same way, but it’s still love.”
“One of the lines in the play is, ‘Anything that’s really beautiful only lasts a very short time,’ and that’s very true of theater,” Aukin said. “I’m feeling it very much this evening about this play.”
Harmon said of his hopes for the play, “that it starts a conversation for [the audience] about history, about family, about what people value, about what it means to be alive, about time passing and what you’re doing with your time — who you’re choosing to spend it with and how you invest in it. I hope it starts that conversation.”
“To be doing theater in L.A. is absolutely great,” Menzel said. “The audiences are amazing. They’re really smart and they really seem to get it.”
As evidence that the L.A. audiences are getting it, the theater’s executive director, Gil Cates Jr., said the run has already been extended. “It’s one of the few times that we’ve extended a show before opening night,” he said. “Usually you have to wait for the buzz, for the word to build, to wait for the reviews — especially with the first show of the season, when people are just coming back from the summer. It’s a great way to start the year.”
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday; and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday; through Oct. 12
Info: (310) 208-5454, geffenplayhouse.org