A friendly suburban barbecue spirals into a delirious, dangerous bacchanal in the superb play DETROIT by Lisa D’Amour. A sharp X-ray of the embattled American psyche as well as a smart, tart critique of the country’s fraying social fabric, Ms. D’Amour’s dark comedy is as rich and addictively satisfying as a five-layer dip served up with a brimming bowl of tortilla chips.
5 STARS. SUPERBLY EXECUTED. Cascading, hilarious monologues with musical, juicy, idea-packed language. Anne Kauffman’s production unites an optimal cast and eerily vivid design. 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.
How did you come to write Detroit?
I had been collaborating all year long on really big collaborative experimental projects and I finally had a moment to breathe and I was like, “I just want to write a play that’s just for me.” I had no commissions. I had nothing. And I just had this idea that… it’s kind of an elaboration on The Cataract because there are two couples in that play too, and I just sort of had this little idea of these two couples living next door to each other. Two very different couples. And I just started writing it in this very relaxed way.
My brother Chris, the quintessential charming New Orleans host, has a game he often starts at parties after downing an Old-Fashioned or two. He especially loves to play it when his guests include people from different facets of his life—relative strangers to each other who might need an icebreaker in order to really relax. He'll smile, lean back in his chair, take a sip of his cocktail and begin: "Alright everybody, one question: If you could have any other job than the job you have now, what would it be?"
"When you ain't got nothin', you got nothin' to lose." –Bob Dylan, "Like a Rolling Stone"
There are many possible points of entry into Lisa D'Amour's dazzlingDetroit. It's such an ambitious, multi-layered play, a play I am convinced should be on college syllabi a hundred years from now, assuming colleges still exist. In talking about the play to a group of supporters the other night, I found myself saying, "It's kind of Richard II meets Awake and Sing meets True West meets The Bacchae, with a little Robocop and "The Honeymooners" thrown in for zest." I don't mean to imply it's some kind of post-modern mishmash. It's actually my flip attempt to identify the play's originality and its depth.
"I think I am feeling another skin just below my real skin. It's been there the whole time." –Mary, in DETROIT
Christine and Léa Papin, sisters born six years apart, were described by the few who knew them as extremely quiet and retiring young women; but on the evening of February 2, 1933, they did something unexpected. For seven years, they had worked as live-in maids to the family of Monsieur René Lancelin, who came home that evening to discover his wife and daughter dead, beaten beyond recognition, their eyes gouged out. ...
"Plywood has a lifespan of 40 years. Over time, the glue that holds plywood together dries up. Then, walls buckle, split and peel. Panels pop loose. Rooms, doors and windows morph into trick-or-treat versions of themselves." –Herbert Muschamp, The New York Times, October 19, 1997