If good fences make good neighbors, then the quartet at the center of Lisa D’Amour’s sly, timely and neatly surprising Detroit are the worst next-door couples ever. Bourgie, insecure Mary (Amy Ryan) and Ben (David Schwimmer), and fresh-out-of-rehab drifters Sharon (Sarah Sokolovic) and Kenny (Darren Pettie) all have a distinct lack of boundaries—the inner and outer sort that allow them to live in close proximity without upsetting the suburban ecosystem. Of course, watching D’Amour upset, deface and finally trash these people’s habitats is what’s so fun about this superbly executed new play.
Detroit is a story of social insinuation and clarifying violence, with theatrical roots as varied as Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Dennis Potter’s Brimstone and Treacle. It’s also very much an of-the-moment American play, contrasting recently laid-off Ben’s pathetic attempt to start a home office with Kenny and Sharon’s cheerful shiftiness and the relative freedom they enjoy from being totally broke. Guiding us smoothly through front-door and backyard scenes between the two houses as a warm but unstable friendship grows, D’Amour perfectly captures a certain pervasive lifestyle of today: atomized, mediated, ersatz and culturally leveled. We are ghosts, she seems to suggest, in our own cloned homes.
Anne Kauffman’s production unites an optimal cast and eerily vivid design, with clever sound-effect elements from Matt Tierney, who does with a barbecue sizzle or fly buzzing what D’Amour accomplishes with cascading, hilarious monologues and minutely calibrated chitchat. Her script might sometimes lapse into playwriting clichés (not one but three theme-reinforcing dreams get recounted), but there’s so much musical, juicy, idea-packed language that you forgive such faults. Detroit has just moved in; I suggest you bring over a fruit basket or bottle of wine and hope it stays for a good long time.—David Cote
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