Detroit is scary good. Not only is it incredibly smart, funny, and blessed with actors whose impeccable timing is evident in every scene, it’ll nibble on the back of your brain all the next day. You might leave the theatre with a vague unease, but that’s directly proportionate to the amazement you experience when this one finally unpacks itself in your mind.
A 2011 Pulitzer finalist, Detroit was written by Lisa D’Amour in the summer of 2009. This production, which just opened at the Aurora in Berkeley, is directed by Josh Costello. Costello’s program notes state this is the “story of two couples – one on the verge of losing everything and the other with nothing to lose.” The historic moment remains unstated, but it’s fairly obvious, this is a post-2008 world.
The exaggerated hyperrealism and intentional artificially of Ben (Jeff Garrett), Mary (Amy Resnick), Sharon (Luisa Frasconi) and Kenny (Patrick Kelly) serves this material well.
We see Ben and Mary stuck in their sad house with its stuck doors and collapsing law umbrella. Their hold on suburbia is tenuous at best, but still somewhat better than that of Sharon and Kenny, a mysterious furniture-free couple who’re trying to hold something they never had.
Each couple connects over weird stuff, sharing too much information about teeth, and spouting clichés “about re-envisioning your life.” Dialogue is as intentionally artificial as the crappy astro-turf on Ben and Mary’s lawn, but comic timing and punky randomness (“percussion”) prevent it from being slow or predictable.
Ben and Mary are biding time in this suburban wasteland where even Baby Blue doesn’t need the reminder it’s all over in this post-crash world where no one even bothers to distinguish between creative destruction or senseless BS in these end times.
Folks who saw The Arsonist at the Aurora will smile as flames once again lick the set on the small thrust stage. The outcome here isn’t as predetermined, but at least some of the same existential drivers remain. The Aurora is particularly good at raising these, forcing us to look at ourselves.
Detroit is on stage at the Aurora in Berkeley through July 19th.
UPDATE 07.14.2015 – Good news! Aurora has announced that Detroit has been extended through July 26th.
Photo credit: David Allen.