Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires

Skeleton Crew
Westport Country Playhouse
Review by Zander Opper | Season Schedule

Sean Nelsen and Perri Gaffney
Photo by Carol Rosegg
Westport Country Playhouse is currently presenting an altogether terrific production of Dominique Morisseau's Skeleton Crew. Part of this playwright's trilogy of plays set in Detroit (the others are Paradise Blue and Detroit '67), Skeleton Crew proves to be the most accomplished of the three. A good amount of this success can be credited to director LA Williams, whose staging is impeccable, and to a uniformly brilliant cast, who all seem to live and breathe their characters.

The play is set in Detroit in 2008 in a small automobile plant, and the action takes place in the plant's break room. Thus, we never actually see the four characters working—but much is revealed during their time spent in the break room. From beginning to end, there is an underlying tension of whether or not the plant might close, like so many others have in Detroit, and how each person in the play will manage to survive. Even within this anxiety, there is much laughter, a bit of romance, and a general comradery that comes naturally from people who have been working with each other for many years.

In a cast that truly works as an ensemble, Perri Gaffney's portrayal of Faye manages to stand out just a bit. All of the characters in Skeleton Crew are African American, even if their ultimate fate at the plant is likely to be decided by bosses who are probably Caucasian. Faye acts as the union staff leader, looking out for her team of employees. Gaffney is excellent as Faye, and one only has to look at her eyes or the way she walks around the stage to realize that this is someone who has seen some very difficult times. She also fully conveys the humor within her character, as well as the way Faye feels responsible for the livelihood of her fellow workers.

Sean Nelson is powerful as Reggie, who acts as a sort of liaison between his bosses and Faye, and it is only gradually revealed that Reggie and Faye are related in a familiar way. I would hate to reveal too much of the plot, for a great deal of the impact of this play comes in the surprises and unexpected events. The bond between these two characters is quite moving, especially in the second half of the play.

Sometimes acting as comedy relief are the characters of Dez and Shanita, who are portrayed wonderfully by Leland Fowler and Toni Martin, respectively. Shanita is in the first few months of pregnancy, and Martin wins a great many laughs when she talks about the hormonal changes the character is experiencing. As the yin to her yang, Leland Fowler, as Dez, aggressively pursues Shanita, even as she repeatedly fends him off. Besides the abundant laughter these characters elicit, the playwright has made sure that, like everyone onstage, they are playing multi-layered people who are much more than they first appear on the surface.

Director LA Williams is blessed with an expert design team, with Caite Hevner's scenic design feeling just right for this play, which truly helps to establish the milieu these people are working in. The same goes for Asa Benally's costume design, which is spot-on and completely appropriate. Xavier Pierce's lighting sets the mood for each scene and, like many of Morisseau's other plays, music plays a crucial role, with Chris Lane's sound design being just perfect.

Dominique Morisseau is quite an interesting and arresting writer, as Skeleton Crew demonstrates, and these qualities are only enhanced by the ideal production at Westport Country Playhouse. The key to what makes this show work so well is ultimately the human element among the four characters, making one wonder what makes each of them tick and what will become of them, even long after the play has concluded. Westport Country Playhouse has a real winner in Skeleton Crew and it is highly recommended that you see this show.

Skeleton Crew, through June 22, 2019, at Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Ct., Westport CT. For tickets, please visit or call the box office at 203-227-4177.