We are so fortunate to live where we do – not only are we surrounded by a wealth of professional and community theater, but we have a number of college theater groups in our immediate vicinity. The creativity and passion that Skidmore College theater puts into their work is awe-inspiring; their 2017 production of Let the Right One In was in my top five for the year, and their current production of Everything You Touch is compelling, intelligent, timely and heartbreaking.
Two stories unfold simultaneously in the piece: Victor (Caoilin O’Connor), a fashion designer in the mid-1970s, struggles between making fashion and making his clothing accessible; his muse Esme (Lucy Consagra) wants him to stay true to his talent, while a new inspiration, Louella (Lulu Fairclough-Stewart) has him aiming for practicality. In the present, Jess (Bianca Thompson) takes a road trip to visit her dying mother; accompanying Jess is a man she recently met in a bar who may or may not be a figment of her imagination.
For a piece where beauty and fashion are at the core, this piece doesn’t shy away from ugliness; the topics covered punch you in the gut: suicide, body image, sexism, the idea of self, mental health. A group of models do double duty as household items: a lamp, a car, a bar sign, an ashtray, not women but objects, things to be used and discarded. Words are knives, used to cut loved ones to ribbons. How you look is everything; what’s inside doesn’t matter, until the fact that no one really sees you kills what soul you have left. And as a woman, for me, every insult, every cut, felt personal – the cast and director Rachel Karp understand that and lay the pain bare for a mutual catharsis.
O’Connor’s work as Victor is nuanced; his character could be easy to hate, but O’Connor lets us see the depths in Victor, making him three-dimensional and so much more intriguing. Consagra lights up the stage; her character arc is extremely pronounced and she gives life and believability to every single iteration of Esme. Thompson’s Jess is our everywoman; she’s so open and honest in the role, and that’s no easy feat. This is truly top-quality work from actors just starting out; I can’t wait to see what their careers hold in store for them.
Leah Mirani’s costume design is a treat – she not only had to costume the show, but design three runway shows for it, and the results are stunning. Sarah Markley’s set design is stark and perfect; a runway, staircases, a catwalk and areas where models can be in shadow for dramatic effect, all in flat, bright white.
Youthful energy, a group of extremely talented students and a college theater that’s willing to take a risk on newer shows is the right combination for theater magic at Skidmore, and I applaud their ingenuity and obvious passion. If these students are the future of theater, I feel very good about the direction in which it’s headed.
“Everything You Touch,” Skidmore Theater, 815 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs; through March 8; $12-$8; Run time: 1 hour and 40 minutes; https://theater.skidmore.edu/