Ben and Mary invite their new neighbors, Kenny and Sharon, over for dinner one night. Little do they know that this simple act of kindness will throw all of their lives into chaos as friendships are built and relationships broken because of an ever present battle of the id versus the ego in Lisa D’Amour’s Detroit.
Should you see it?
I have a hard time understanding the critical acclaim that Lisa D’Amour’s Detroit has received in its short existence. I understand the play’s longing to be reminiscent of a time, decades past, when neighbors knew neighbors and weren’t afraid to ask for a cup of sugar. What I don’t understand is how this simplicity was supposed to work against the backdrop of a modern city (not necessarily Detroit as the title suggests) which finds itself in economic turmoil while housing barely functional urban suburbanite-wannabes. And yet here we are; the Canadian debut of Detroit at The Gladstone Theatre as presented by Plosive Productions.
Detroit’s set is simple on paper. Two houses side by side. The first yard nicely kept. The second yard, not so much. All of the action takes place here as the neighboring couples live, learn, love and fight. The highlight of Plosive’s production was the way in which they took such a simple set and made it beautiful and complex. I am always impressed when a theatre company puts the time and effort needed into a set.
Second to none was the high calibre performances given by an extremely talented cast. While I wasn’t a fan of the content (which I’ll get to), that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a good performance when I see it. Teri Loretto-Valentik, as Mary, is just an absolute sweetheart whose emotional range and character complexities were about the only things that kept me engaged throughout the show. David Benedict Brown, as Kenny, was also delightful in creating a character who was able to bring a much needed levity to an otherwise convoluted play trying too hard to be a mature-rated sitcom.
Now, the content itself. While I may have enjoyed the performances and the set, I deplored the actual play. At the intermission I turned to my wife and said: “At this moment I do not hate this play, but I am less than fond of how I’ve spent the past 70 minutes of my life.” That sentiment nearly grew to a “you’ve got to be freaking kidding me” outburst in the second act, which spent over half of its time with its four characters dancing and belligerently shouting incomprehensible nonsense at each other, over an extremely extended rendition Daft Punk’s Lucky playing much louder than the actors were speaking in the forefront.**
Detroit tries to touch on many hot button topics including economic distress, marital infidelity, money management, and drug addiction, yet it does so in a flippant, almost trivial manner which brushes serious issues away and tries to make the audience laugh at them. I found myself rolling my eyes and groaning at the content with each passing minute. It should be no surprise that the audience was a little emptier after the intermission, reassuring me that I wasn’t the only one who found themselves not enjoying their Friday evening out at the theatre.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d like to know what you thought. Do you disagree with me? What did you think of Detroit? Let me know in the comments below!
**An early post of this review suggested that there may have been some licensing issues around the use of the song. After consultation with the play’s director, Chris Ralph, it has been cleared up that Plosive Productions did have the licensing rights to use the song for use during the show.