Everything You Touch Offers Too Much Surface and Too Little Substance


If beauty is skin deep, how deep is fashion? Not very, to judge by Sheila Callaghan’s Everything You Touch, a clothes-conscious new drama directed by Jessica Kubzansky and produced by the Rattlestick, now playing at the Cherry Lane. This time-traveling family saga meditates on body image, self-esteem, and avant-garde clothing. Unfortunately, Callaghan takes a cue from her characters and remains stubbornly surface-level throughout.

Callaghan alternates between two plotlines in different time zones: There’s present-day Jess (Miriam Silverman), confused and slobby, with body issues and mommy issues. Meanwhile, back in the wild 1970s, Victor
Cavanaugh (Christian Coulson) is a fashion-design sensation caught between warring “muses” — lovers, assistants, inspirations — cosmopolitan Esme (Tonya Glanz) and all-American Louella (Lisa Kitchens). The story lines eventually connect, as Jess travels
toward her hometown and a confrontation with the family that left her so screwed up. Tall, slender models follow the main characters around, alternately showcasing Victor’s designs and holding cutesy, oversize props to indicate setting and location.

Everything You Touch features numerous loud arguments and the frequent airing of feelings — and yet it’s never clear what
really matters to Callaghan. Inherited body shame and the beauty-industrial complex seem to be the subjects, but the story feels as disjointed as the stray mannequin limbs decorating the room. Beauty may be shallow, but theater benefits from depth.

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