REVIEW: ‘Detroit’ sizzles onstage

Reviewed by: Alana Walker, The South End

Click HERE to read the review on The South End website.

Ben (Joe Plambeck)Photo Credit: Felix Lee

Ben (Joe Plambeck)
Photo Credit: Felix Lee

Interacting with neighbors, especially new ones, can be a challenge for anyone. Add on the fact that the new neighbors, who claim to be newly released from drug rehab, seem to be a little strange and possibly hiding something, the task of being neighborly can be a daunting one.

In Detroit by Lisa D’Amour, the lives of two unlikely couples become intertwined, allowing them to learn about themselves, their partners and the important things in life. The show, set in the first string of residential homes on Detroit’s outskirts, slowly reveals secrets as the two couples. Despite the title, the actual city of Detroit didn’t play a major role in the plot of the story. With only a few references to Detroit in the script, the play could be relatable to almost anyone.

In the beginning of the show, Ben (Joe Plambeck) and his wife Mary (Vanessa Sawson) seem to have it all together while new neighbors Kenny (David Sterritt) and Sharon (Danielle Cochrane), who are renting the house from Frank (Edmund Alyn Jones), seem to be the complete opposite. The clash in personalities resulted in tense serious moments as well as some hilariously awkward moments throughout the show.

While the pacing of the show can seem a tad slow at some points, the sizzling dialogue is more than enough to keep the audience engaged, and the script eventually intensifies, resulting in scorching chemistry between the actors.

The show’s lead characters each had distinct and strong personalities, which require equally strong actors. All of the actors’ portrayals were engaging, believable and well developed, but perhaps the most impressive performances came from the ladies. Sawson and Cochrane both delivered compelling performances, bringing complexity and charm to their characters; Mary being a put-together wife with a suppressed wild side and Sharon, the strong free spirit.

The men’s performances were a refreshing compliment to their female counterparts. Their characters were both pure and elaborate, but above all, genuine. The differentiation of age and social classes between these two neighbors was undeniably evident through the acting, costume design and scenic design.

The realistic set was equipped with two undeniably accurate homes viewed from their backyard on both far sides of the stage; one very conservatively decorated, the other desolate and empty. Perched between the two houses was the dark skyline of the city. One of the most impressive things about the technical aspects of the show was the fact that the actors actually cooked steak on stage — this absolutely blew my mind. It’s something I’ve never seen before, and the sizzle, smoke and smell from a grill is something that can’t easily be duplicated. Because of the importance of the backyard grill to the characters, I think actually grilling on stage for that brief amount of time was such a great decision.

For those planning to see the show, expect nothing less than a vivid dark comedy with genuine characters and an attention-grabbing stage. The play runs until April 5 at the Hilberry Theatre.

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