American playwright Lisa D’Amour has described her play as being about ‘the opening up of the private self to the public self’.
This is a good ‘way in’ to appreciating this difficult, dense work if you decide to see DETROIT. The play’s biggest moments are when the characters unmask themselves from their public persona and reveal what is truly going on for them.
Two couples, Ben and Mary, and Sharon and Kenny, are living the American dream, setting up themselves in the new suburbia in downtown Detroit. The time period- circa the the nineteen sixties- signposted with the prevalence of Motown music in the soundscape.
Struggling couple Ben and Mary have been in the estate for a while. Sharon and Kenny are new arrivals. The play starts with Ben and Mary welcoming Sharon and Kenny to their new neighbourhood with a barbecue lunch.
While all the houses on the estate may look the same- reminding one of Malvina Reynolds 1962 folk song Little Boxes– “Little boxes on the hillside/little boxes made of ticky tacky/Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes all the same/ There’s a green one and a pink one and a blue one and a yellow one/And they’re all made out of ticky tacky/and they all look just the same.”- it soon becomes apparent that these two couples are very different people, and that they are going to mix badly…
Ben and Mary are the older, early middle-age couple, conservative, battling to make ends meet whilst Kenny and Sharon come across as brash, outspoken and irresponsible. The younger couple let on that they have been substance abusers who have recently come out of rehab…
DETROIT is an engaging two hours in the theatre and has a good mix of some very dark moments with plenty of wryly comic moments.
The performances are in the main excellent, inhabiting their distinctive characters well- Ed Wightman as the nervy, not very competent Ben, Lisa Chappell as his unhappy, picky wife, Mary, Claire Lovering as the provocateur Sharon, and James O’Connell as her creepy husband, Kenny.
I wasn’t comfortable with Ronald Falk’s brief performance as the ‘fly-in’ character Frank towards the play’s end in an important role. The scene felt jarring and poorly directed by Ross McGregor whose work was generally satisfying.
On a technical level this production is very demanding and the creative team do great work.
Cast- Lisa Chappell- Mary, Ronald Falk- Frank, Claire Lovering- Sharon, James O’Connell- Kenny, Ed Wightman- Ben
Creative Team- Ross McGregor-Director, Benjamin Brockman- Lighting and AV Designer, Amy Harris- Stage Manager, Jeremy Silver- Composer and Sound Designer, Tobiyah Stone Feller, Paige Walker- Dialect Coach
DETROIT is playing at the Eternity Playhouse Theatre until Sunday 16th August. Performance times Tuesdays to Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 5pm, Wednesday matinee 12th August at 11am, Saturday matinee on 1, 8 and 15 August at 3pm. More details:- http://www.darlinghursttheatre.com/