everymantheatre

Baltimore native Keith LeRoyal (right) with actor Mitchell Hébert in ‘Under the Skin.’

When actress Alice Gatling first read the script for “Under the Skin,” the play starting at Everyman Theatre January 20, she says she threw it across the room.

Gatling was part of the original cast of the play, written by Michael Hollinger, which first premiered at the Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia.

“I went and picked it up and I’d read it and say ‘No!’ And then I was like, ‘Who is this guy that would write this?’ I walked into that rehearsal for the reading saying ‘And who are you? Because I need to know. Who is Michael Hollinger? I need to know.’”

On the surface, “Under the Skin” is a play about a man in need of kidney. But, it’s also a play about family, about friendship and the ties that bind people together. As the story unfolds, there are twists and turns that will surprise audiences.

Gatling said that besides the shocking turns that the story takes, there were other things about the play that captured her attention.

“It made me think about something I never thought about before. I never thought about organ donation. Ever. There is no one in my family that has needed an organ it has just not been on my radar and all of a sudden, I found myself caring about individuals who are in need of organs and what needs to be done in that capacity. What do we all have a capacity to do to help?”

“The other thing that it was about was relationships…my mind went in a hundred different directions trying to figure out the relationships.”

Baltimore native Keith LeRoyal portrays Jarrell, a young man with a promising future who must deal with some major truths uncovered in the play. Jarrell is raised by his tough but loving mother Marlene, portrayed by Gatling.

“Jerrell and Marlene have this relationship that comes out of this really tough past and this really complex life,” LeRoyal said.

“You get an opportunity to see someone from that environment being shown in a light that you don’t often see, where he went to Princeton and he is a more altruistic character that pretty much presents himself with an openness and an open heart and open mind throughout this whole piece. I felt really inspired by that as a young actor of color who sees scripts and projects time and time again that show us in the opposite light.”

He said the play also delves into the complex issue of fatherlessness.

“That’s something really special that we’re bringing to the table — Michael’s bringing to the table. Because I mean I know in the city of Baltimore growing up I can’t tell you the number of different ways I’ve seen my friends and family respond to fatherlessness.”

“I just think it’s a great opportunity when you can put something on the stage that an audience can relate to in the way that I think audiences in Baltimore will be able to relate. To just to get the conversation started in their own heads in another way that it may not have before, or to start a conversation in their families that hasn’t started before.”

Overall, he said, it’s a play about forgiveness.

“No matter who you are and where you are, you can relate to having reached a point in your life where in order for you to move forward to be the best version of yourself, you have to make peace with something in your life and maybe forgive somebody who’s really hard to forgive. And all these characters have a moment where they have to do that.”

“Under the Skin” runs until Feb. 21 at the Everyman Theatre, 315 W Fayette St, Baltimore, Maryland 21201.