Saturday, February 3, 2018

"Skeleton Crew" ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG

As the third installment in The Detroit Project, a trilogy of shows about author Dominique Morisseau's home town, "Skeleton Crew" is engaging. The stage action takes place inside the lunchroom of the auto stamping factory at which the four characters work, but we also catch glimpses of their lives outside. Those lives are what are at stake here, as the auto industry contracts to try and survive the paralyzing recession of 2008. The more we hear about outside the lunchroom, the more we understand what goes on inside.

It's a terrific cast. The two men in the show, Christian Thompson as Dez and Lance Gardner as Reggie appear to be opposites. Dez is young and fiery while Reggie is older and measured.

In some ways, this is Reggie's show. He has moved up to a white collar job, but he grew up in the same East Detroit neighborhood as everyone else. His loyalties are divided between wishing to keep the house he has been able to purchase and not wanting to sell out his friends. He is the one who must choose which side he is on.

Margo Hall is Faye, the elder stateswoman, full of wisdom for everyone but herself. It takes the whole show for us to realize how far she has fallen. Tristan Cunningham plays Shanita, pregnant and unmarried, but determined not to let that get in her way of success.

We loved Dez. His character is allowed to vent his honest frustration. And those frustrations are real: the people at the bottom are the people who get hurt first and worst. These workers, who take pride in doing a job that will result in people everywhere getting to ride in well-built cars, are rewarded by cut pay, longer hours and eventually pink slips as the factory closes.

The attraction of Dez for Shanita, and vice-versa, feels real.

Special mention to Ed Haynes for his lunchroom set. The "sofa," which is actually a repurposed bench seat from one of their cars, the signs all over the walls, the old refrigerator, the coffee pot, the mismatched chairs and that photo of Barack Obama on the inside of Shanita's locker all bring us into the room with our four workers, fighting for their jobs and their pride.


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Skeleton Crew" Three Stars with a Bangle of Praise for the terrific set piece between Dez and Faye about why Dez brings a gun to work. All four actors bring life to their roles. "Skeleton Crew" gives us a lot to think about.

"Skeleton Crew"
Marin Theater Company
397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley
Through February 18

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