Thursday November 23rd 2017

“Detroit”

       Steppenwolf  Theatre has kicked off their season with a new play written by Lisa D’Amour that looks at how the inner person reacts to the complex world we live in. The title of the play is “Detroit”, but it really could have taken place in any of many local suburbs just as easily. The action takes place in a tract housing development as we see two homes and get to meet the inhabitants of them. I must tell you that the set  by Kevin Depinet is as realistic as I have ever seen on the stage at Steppenwolf. It truly appears that we are looking over the fence into the backyards of the two couples involved in the story. Mary and Ben (Laurie Metcalf and Ian Barford) have been in their home for many years and are entertaining their new neighbors, Sharon and Kenny (Kate Arrington and Kevin Anderson) with a bar-b-que. Little by little we learn more about these characters. Mary has a job and Ben has been laid off and is working on starting a new business through the Internet. Sharon and Kenny have just come out of a rehab program and have jobs and this house which they are renting from a relative. While there is an age difference, it all seems natural and real. Watching these four actors work is a treat and young actors can learn a great deal from doing so.

As the story unfolds, we learn a great deal more about the people and that they all have little secrets, the biggest being the secrest of Sharon and Kenny. Scene after scene in this 1 hour and forty minutes ( no intermission) we learn more about them and their search for more than they have. While Ben and Mary seemed to be a normal couple living out their lives in a normal way, this new friendship starts to bring out the inner self that they have kept inside and what seemed like a typical couple in the burbs changes greatly. The play, skillfully directed by Austin Pendleton, takes a close look at what can happen to a person, or couple, when they allow themselves to open up with others- when they come out of the shell they have built around themselves over the years.

Kenny and Sharon were drug users and alcoholics in their pasts and as the story unfolds, we see that Mary also has a problem with drinking. Ben and Mary change from a loving normal couple to a wild twosome unsure of what they really want for themselves and as it turns out Kenny and Sharon are not exactly what they appear to be. This is a strong cast of players and a play filled withmany funny moments, but the truth of the matter is, I didn’t feel it ended as I would have hoped it would. I would not want to give away anything as it would ruin the production for you, but there is a tragic accident and after, Kenny and Sharon are gone and Mary and Ben have bee shocked back into reality. The play ends with the owner of the home next door ( handled by Steppenwolf veteran Robert Breuller) talking about the subdivision and the past that it enjoyed. I for one wanted to know exactly what happened to Sharon and Kenny and so the ending left me wanting. While I was happy that Mary and Ben were on their way to normalcy, I thought to myself, they might be okay again but who knows their lives may have been shattered forever from this experience.

This is as I said earlier, a well acted piece, each cast member bringing a touch of reality to their character and all of them handled the comic moments with great timing. I was also impressed with the scene changes and how they played off the stagehands who assisted them with these quick changes.The lighting by Kevin Rogdon, the sound design and original music by Josh Schmidt and the choreography by Tommy Rapley ( I know this is not a musical, but there is indeed some dancing) were all icing on the cake as far as the total picture goes. Over the years Steppenwolf has given us many dysfunctional family stories and this is in that mold with the only exception being the incomplete ending. A story needs to have all the loose ends be tied at the end and this one left a few untied. You can see for yourself as “Detroit”  continues through November 7th at Steppenwolf Theatre located at 1650 N. Halsted with performances as  follows:

Tuesday thru Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 3 p.m.  Sunday evenings at 7:30 through October 17th ONLY.

Tickets range from $20-$73 and are available at the box office, by phone at 312-335-1650 or online at www.steppenwolf.org

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