“The Skin of Our Teeth” is a play by Thornton Wilder, about the Antrobus family, an archetypal family of five who live their day-to-day life throughout all of human history from the invention of the wheel to a future time following a violent and destructive war. In these five characters Wilder encapsulates the diversity and commonality of all people. Through their lives Wilder demonstrates the simple truths of human existence that are constant throughout all times and places no matter the peculiar circumstances that people find themselves living in.
One of the most interesting aspects of the play is its inclusion of the audience into the action. Several times throughout the play the actors step out of character as a member of the Antrobus family, and take on the role of an actor playing that part. These actor-characters speak to the audience, giving their thoughts and reactions to the play. The most vocal of these is "Miss Somerset," an actress who plays the part of "Sabina" the maid, who tells the audience "I hate this play and every word in it." By using the actors this way Wilder has broken the fourth wall of conventional theater, reinforcing that the action being seen is a play, and not real.
Ironically, this makes the action seem all the more real, allowing the audience to forget that the actor speaking to them is actually a character himself. The elimination of the fourth wall makes the audience feel as if they are actually present at the events in the play, rather than merely watching them up on a stage. Wilder uses the dialogue of these actor-characters to express, both directly and indirectly, much of his message about the struggles, triumphs, faults, and achievements of humanity.
Through his depiction of the Antrobus family and the actors who play them Wilder paints an honest and thoughtful portrayal of the various facets of human nature.