A solo musical comedy with puppets, Under Your Skin is a wild retelling of a time Jackie Smook stumbled into working as a medical assistant. Full of whimsy, fun characters, physical comedy and renditions of songs from opera, rock and musical theatre, this show is a raucous romp that will keep the audience engaged from start to finish.
The show's plot follows Smook during the summer of her first year of college. She returns home from school and looks for a summer job. She stumbles into a position working as a medical assistant for a dermatologist. She assists with a melanoma surgery on the first day and passes out. After not getting fired, she starts to improve and enjoy the work, eventually taking on her patients. After 12 weeks, the owner of the practice is diagnosed with dementia and has to close. Even though the job was brief, Smook is left with lasting memories and a curiosity about what her life could have been like if she had chosen a different path.
Smook's vocals are impressive. She tackles classical and contemporary tunes alike, her voice versatilely tackling complex songs with ease. However, the most impressive aspect of the show is the handmade puppets. Smook uses the help of a gang of puppets she made herself to portray different characters in the story. These colorful creatures make the show memorable and unique.
The music direction by Joey Chimes is remarkable. The clear connection and collaboration between himself and Smook allows for much of the show's comedy to be highlighted by the soundtrack. His onstage inclusion also allowed him to showcase his musical improvisation skills. In addition, the show occasionally employs the onstage musician and page-turner as characters, sometimes offering Smook advice and helping move the story along.
The show's plot feels a little secondary to the singing and puppetry. I wonder if a simpler plot structure or a different use of the structure could have served the show better. Even still, the show's zaniness makes up for the plot's lack of narrative conflict and resolution. Or the show could have been paired down slightly, with fewer characters and bits to bolster the core comedy of the concept. Regardless, at the end of the show, the audience remembers Smook's physical comedy and fun puppetry.
Under Your Skin is a must-see for fans of musical theatre, over-the-top comedy and puppets. Jackie Smook is undoubtedly a force to look out for and a performer full of potential.
"Under Your Skin"
Co-Written and Performed by Jackie Smook
Director/ Co-Writer: Jackson Zinn-Rowthorn
Musical Director/ Pianist: Joey Chimes
The 15th United Solo Festival
September 25- November 19, 2023
410 West 42nd (btw 9th and 10th Avenue)
Carmen! is a trans-multimedia artist specializing in playwriting, acting and crochet. Originally from Jacksonville Beach, Florida, they are currently based in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, returning to their Atlantic Oceanic roots. Their play Taking the Plunge has been performed at the Tank and the Chain off-Broadway and in the 2023 Fresh Fruit Festival slated this June. Carmen has also worked in front-of-house and technical positions for prominent theater organizations including New Dramatists, Portland Playhouse, Emursive and Future Proof. Carmen’s mission is to use play to create meaningful representation by and for underrepresented communities. For more information on Carmen! Follow them on socials @carmenacetosociety or check out www.carmenburbridge.info