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Theater review by Adam Feldman
“I don’t do labels,” says Trey (the impressive Will Brittain), 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. In Joshua Harmon’s family dramedy Skintight, nakedly inspired by the 2010 relationship between Calvin Klein and sometime porn model Nick Gruber, the gentleman in question is Elliot Isaac (Jack Wetherall), a megarich clothing designer who has come out swinging late in his life. Trey is not entirely averse to labels, after all: His underwear has Elliot’s name on the waistband.
Their relationship mortifies Elliot’s daughter, Jodi (an amusingly self-absorbed Idina Menzel), who is reeling from her ex-husband’s marriage to a younger woman; meanwhile, it both frustrates and titillates her gay son, Benji (the nicely wistful Eli Gelb), who is Trey’s age but plaintive and plain. As in Bad Jews and Significant Other, Harmon gets good mileage out of Jewish anxiety and discomfort; he is not afraid to make his main characters intensely abrasive. And Daniel Aukin’s staging gets laughs where it should, making excellent comic use of the brutal gray stairway (reminiscent of the one in Klein’s 1980s Obsession ad) at the center of Lauren Helpern’s sternly elegant set. But the play is so tightly corseted by its central concern—”What is so great about hot?”—that its characters don’t have enough room to breathe. It makes good points, but as a human story, it seldom digs beyond skin-deep.
Laura Pels Theatre (Off Broadway). By Joshua Harmon. Directed by Daniel Aukin. With Idina Menzel, Jack Wetherall, Will Brittain, Eli Gelb. Running time: 2hrs 15mins. One intermission.