Island City Stage near Ft. Lauderdale

By: - Jun 06, 2024

You may not agree with Elliot Isaac’s belief about beauty.

“Hot is everything,” he tells his adult daughter, referring to his belief that sexual attractiveness is most important in a relationship.

But you have to admit that Elliot can speak beautifully.

“I touch him,” Isaac says, referring to his boyfriend. “I touch his skin…stretched like a crisp, freshly-ironed sheet pulled tight across a perfectly made bed; creaseless; and all you want is to slip inside those sheets and stay there forever.”

Actually, the author of those eloquent words is the provocative, insightful, and witty playwright Joshua Harmon. His moving, layered, poetic, but not flawless play, Skintight, is running at Island City Stage (ICS) in a commendable two-and-a-quarter hour professional production (including intermission) through June 29. It was originally going to close on June 23. However, due to high ticket demand, the run will last almost a week longer.

That’s a good thing for South Florida audiences and visitors. Indeed, this is a fine production complete with impressively natural performances and admirable behind-the-scenes work. Of course, we’ve come to expect great things from ICS. It is an award-winning, nonprofit professional theater company in Wilton Manors. ICS primarily produces productions of LGBTQ-themed plays and musicals.

ICS’s production of Skintight, which Artistic Director Andy Rogow sensitively directs, stars talented performers Suzanne Ankrum, Steve Schroko, Laura Argo, Louis Pedraza, Jeff Brackett, and Daniel Barrett. Several of the actors are new to ICS.

But you may recognize the behind-the-scenes artists. In addition to Rogow, they include Ardean Landhuis (scenic and lighting design) as well as W. Emil White (costume design) and David Hart (sound design).

While Skintight is a comedy, it is hardly fluff. In fact, it’s a mind exercising meditation on family, history, beauty, the nature of love, the power of attraction, our society’s obsession with youth, and how we teach our young that exterior appearances matter the most.

Parts of Skintight, which is painfully funny at times, are unapologetically direct, acerbic, and vulgar. Keep this in mind if you are easily queasy or overly sensitive. In addition, realize that this is not a play for children.

Skintight takes place in New York City during 2014.

When middle-aged attorney Jodi Isaac (Ankrum) arrives for her father’s 70th birthday, she is a mess, and understandably so. Her middle-aged husband has left her for a 24-year-old woman and all of her friends have left her for the newlyweds. As if that’s not enough, one of Isaac’s two children (an offstage character) is a troubled youngster. Naturally, Isaac expects her dad (Schroko) to comfort her during this trying time in her life.  Instead, she eventually learns that Trey (Brackett), the 20-year-old man inside the apartment, is her father’s partner.

“Partners? Like business partners?” she asks Trey.

“No, partners. Like, partner partners,” he responds.

What follows is a neurotic, riveting family comedy-drama that may call to mind the musical Falsettos and its own dysfunctional clan.

Skintight is not a satire, as are other works by Harmon, but it’s darkly comic. In fact, it will likely cause you to squirm and laugh, sometimes at the same time.

You’re also likely to feel for characters such as Jodi’s older son, 20-year-old Benjamin (Barrett). He’s a gay, Jewish young man studying queer theory and Yiddish culture at a university in Budapest, Hungary. But his father, Jodi’s ex, has interrupted his son’s studies to request that he attend dad’s engagement party in Los Angeles. That affair has already taken place offstage, although Benjamin tells us about it.

The entirety of Skintight takes place in Elliot and Trey’s house, where the older man is reluctantly celebrating his 70th birthday with his daughter and grandson. (Elliot doesn’t like surprises and we get the sense that he’s mostly a private person.)

Speaking of surprises, how is Benjamin supposed to react to what he unexpectedly discovers at his grandfather’s apartment?

“Maybe you should think about how confusing it is for a twenty-year-old when his grandfather’s NAKED BOYFRIEND walks around in front of him. Who’s also 20!” Jodi thunders at her father, noting that her son may also harbor feelings for Trey.

“Of course they want to…hang out, that’s how twenty-year-olds are, they do twenty-year-old things with other twenty-year-olds. They don’t hang out with seventy-year-old men.”

Apparently, some young people do “hang out” with older individuals. And while the playwright gives Jodi plenty of chances to air her views, Harmon also gives Elliot and Trey chances to express their viewpoint and feelings.  The result is a balanced play that, in the end, allows us to form our own conclusions and opinions rather than tell us what to think.

While our society values outer beauty, there are other beautiful things in life besides young, hot, naked bodies, the playwright seems to say. For instance, it’s admirable to learn about history, particularly your family’s past. That is partly why Benjamin is studying abroad in Hungary.

Several of his ancestors lived in the country and were unable to leave in time to escape the Holocaust. In the play, Benjamin expresses his interest in his family history and even his desire to hear Hungarian. Sure, he may not understand it, but the language is part of his family’s past…and, as a result, there is beauty in simply hearing it. Fortunately, one of the play’s minor characters, a housekeeper named Orsolya, is Hungarian and reads him a letter in her native language.

In addition, Benjamin is studying Yiddish culture and even knows some Yiddish words. That is also part of his people’s past. While some may say that Yiddish is a dying language that nobody speaks anymore, it is enjoying a renaissance, including among young people.

While Skintight is a compelling, mind-stimulating play suffused with lively, unapologetically blunt writing and mostly relatable characters, it’s not a perfect piece. For instance, none of the characters really change throughout the course of the play. And the ending is weak; there is no sense of resolution.

Acting wise, the performances are mostly uniformly strong. However, as Jodi, Ankrum could convey more believable desperation and anguish at the beginning. She might even visibly and audibly cry. After all, Jodi’s husband has badly hurt her. Otherwise, Ankrum convincingly portrays Jodi as a high strung, energetic individual who is loving and devoted to her family but also stern when she needs to be. Ankrum also conveys emotional pain not only with her voice, but through telling facial expressions. Certainly, Ankrum disappears into her character. And she sounds as though she is saying Jodi’s lines for the first time.

Meanwhile, Schroko imbues Elliot with credible tension and a serious demeanor. You get the sense that Schroko’s Elliot is uncomfortable around people other than Trey and has a difficult time expressing love to people other than his boyfriend. Contrastingly, Schroko is dreamy and fills his character’s voice with passion when he describes what it’s like to be in love with Trey.

Speaking of the young man, Brackett’s performance as Trey clearly contrasts with Schroko’s tensed Elliot. Brackett endows Trey with a carefree, lively, loose, and fun-loving demeanor. You can tell he is enjoying life. And while there are times you might expect Trey to come across as a jerk, Brackett never allows that to happen. Rather, he smiles, laughs, and kills others with kindness.

Barrett properly lends Benjamin a combination of confusion, awkwardness, and annoyance, especially at his meddling mom. But Barrett also conveys intelligence and a refreshing openness and curiosity as Benjamin.

Louis Pedraza and Laura Argo also deliver solid performances in the minor roles of Jeff and Orsolya, respectively.

In his script, Harmon describes the living room of Elliot and Trey’s townhouse on Horatio Street in New York City as “immaculate, pristine, (and) pitch perfect.” Undoubtedly, Landhuis’s set design of the living room fits those descriptions. With off-white or grey walls, lamps, brownish stairs and stylish furniture, the place looks intimate, yet spacious, upscale, inviting and comfortable.

Lighting wise, Landhuis bathes the stage with bright lighting to focus the actors and provide emphasis. During more intimate scenes, Landhuis tones down the lighting, appropriately making it dimmer.

White’s tasteful costumes fit the upscale aura of the townhouse, while Hart’s sound design helps us hear and understand the actors.

Since ICS boasts an intimate theater, thespians can more easily act naturally, imbuing their performances with an impressive restraint that you often see in film acting. The result is often the kind of realism that we experience in ICS’s production of Skintight.

Since we are in Pride Month, LGBTQ-themed works are especially timely. In pieces such as Skintight, Harmon and other playwrights depict LGBTQ folks living full lives, not merely struggling to come out of the closet. They are relatable people with hopes and dreams like all of us. And ICS continues to breathe vibrancy into these relatable characters’ lives.


WHAT: Island City Stage’s production of Skintight.

WHEN: Through June 29.

WHERE: ICS’s intimate blackbox space at 2304 N. Dixie Highway in Wilton Manors.

TICKETS: Call (954) 928-9800 or go to