The lyric from a famed James Taylor song reads in part “
I've seen fire and I've seen rain.” That is what my Off Broadway experience has
been this season! Floods and flames!
Except for the elaborate Scenic and Lighting Design by
Louisa Thompson and Mark Barton, and a last minute appearance by John Cullum, “Detroit”, a new play by Lisa
D'Amour, is a waste of time. There is no real sense of place; the play could be
set in any U.S. suburb. Now, in all
fairness, I must tell you “Detroit”
was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, its run has been extended to October 28 and it
was sold out the evening we attended. Maybe this is a generational problem, but
let us look at the plot, expressed over almost two hours without intermission
in a series of disparate scenes directed by Anne Kauffman.
There's a thirty-something, seemingly happy couple, Mary and
Ben, who have a nice house with a small green patio, summer furniture and a
barbecue. She, played by the intense Amy Ryan, is a paralegal and he, the
awkward David Schwimmer, has quit his job in a bank and is building a website
for financial consulting. They befriend new neighbors, Sharon, a charming Sarah
Sokolovic, and her husband, Kenny, Darren Petite, who gives an authentic
performance as a construction guy with problems. They admit that they are recovering drug
addicts who met in an institution, which should be a warning to these naifs,
but they continue the friendship.
Loneliness is the mantra for the day. Mary suspects
something is amiss with Ben; he is not making progress with his website, and is
not being productive. She seems to fall in love with Sharon, but even though
Sharon and Kenny say they are borrowing the house from an uncle, they have no
furniture, clothes or food. This puts up a red flag, but Mary and Ben, prone to
alcoholism, don't follow through.
After Ben admits that he has done nothing with his website
at all, and, after a night of carousing that goes on far too long, the
neighbors burn down Mary and Ben's house. In an odd coda, the missing uncle
Frank appears in the guise of John Cullum, a true treasure, and gives a
meandering speech about communication and the way the neighborhood used to
If that were not odd enough, Ben explains he wants to be
British, and Mary, despite her despair, will move with him to England. The Brits should be forewarned.
Playwrights Horizons through October 28.