Skeleton Crew: Theater review by Adam Feldman
Cars are unseen but everywhere in Dominique Morisseau’s meaty Skeleton Crew. Its characters manufacture auto parts, circa 2008; they are among the few workers left at a plant that's in the process of shutting into one of Detroit’s many ghost factories. They’re skilled at their jobs, and they take pride in creating objects powerful enough to serve as transports, death machines, even as last-ditch homes. But as Detroit deteriorates with the car industry, they are torn between strategies of survival: the every-man-for-himself ethos of American individualism versus the solidarity of unions, friends and chosen families. “Nobody wants to merge no more,” says the young, pregnant Shanita (Nikiya Mathis), describing an episode of road rage. “We just gettin’ squished into smaller lanes.”
At the center of the action, which takes place in the factory’s break room, is Lynda Gravatt—a model of rusted steel—as Faye, a weathered lesbian who serves as the workers’ union rep. Jason Dirden plays Dez, an angry hustler with a suspicious backpack; Wendell B. Franklin is their conflicted foreman, Reggie. (Between scenes, Adesola Osakalumi performs riveting robotic movements—literally, break dancing.) Morisseau’s play is firmly based in the lives and evocative language of its four characters, whom Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s powerful production treats with August Wilson–ian respect. They’re messed-up but decent people, driven by forces that may or may not be beyond their control.—Adam Feldman
Atlantic Stage 2 (Off Broadway). By Dominique Morisseau. Dir. Ruben Santiago-Hudson. With ensemble cast. 1hr 55mins. One intermission.
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