Because HotCity Theatre's GreenHouse staging of Skin in Flames
, an intense Spanish drama written by Guillem Clua in response to America's invasion of Iraq, was an American premiere, everything about the work-in-progress was a surprise. But as a poverty-stricken Third World factory worker, Julie Layton's spectral portrayal transcended surprise and approached revelation. Layton is a staple in the local acting community; her sprightly turns often elicit adjectives like "charming," "delightful" and, well, "sprightly." But there was nothing winsome about Ida, a timid young woman sadistically exploited by a sexual predator. Required to excavate the dark shafts of her soul, Layton rose to the challenge with a performance that shamed the viewer, just as Ida had been shamed. Layton elevated an anonymous nonentity into a heroine worthy of Greek tragedy. Her shattering work left a raw scar on the memory that, many months later, refuses to heal.