Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Detroit

Also see Susan's review of Come Blow Your Horn

Washington's Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company has taken a step toward disorientation—in the best sense of the term—with its production of Detroit. Lisa D'Amour's play, a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize, examines the precarious nature of relationships and the shifting role of the suburbs: at first a haven from crowded, dangerous city life, more recently a symbol of a collapsing American dream.

The first part of the theatergoer's dislocation is literal: scenic designer Tom Kamm has transformed Woolly's proscenium space into two banks of seats on either side of the acting area. Kamm's obsessively detailed set depicts the backyards between two suburban homes—one well-tended, the other derelict—and works as both a realistic location and as a screen for projections of decades-old home movies (video designs by Erik Pearson).

The appearance of the houses foreshadows the people who live in them. The well-kept house is where Ben (Tim Getman) and Mary (Emily K. Townley) have lived for years; he's a laid-off banker starting over by building an online financial planning business, she's trying hard to keep herself together. Their new neighbors, Sharon (Gabriela Fernández-Coffey) and Kenny (Danny Gavigan), have blue-collar jobs and no furniture; they explain that the long-empty house belongs to a relative. The two couples, with little in common, talk past each other and try to forge a friendship purely out of their proximity to each other.

In vaguely disquieting language, the two couples reveal their pains and insecurities and reach out in fanciful ways: Mary wants Sharon to join her and live in the woods; Kenny tries to persuade Ben to go with him to a strip joint. What actually happens is both more mundane and more destructive than anything they can imagine.

Director John Vreeke orchestrates the proceedings well enough that the dramatic excesses seem to flow from what has come before. The actors—also including Michael Willis as a former resident of the neighborhood with a lovely, elegiac monologue—totally inhabit their characters and their ensemble work makes the production catch fire.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
Detroit
September 9th - October 6th
By Lisa D'Amour
Sharon: Gabriela Fernández-Coffey
Kenny: Danny Gavigan
Ben: Tim Getman
Mary: Emily K. Townley
Frank: Michael Willis
Directed by John Vreeke
641 D St. N.W., Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-393-3939 or www.woollymammoth.net


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