Theater Review - Detroit (NY)

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 be. 


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.


“Detroit”-- at Playwrights Horizons through October 28.

Winter Pledge Drive

Winter Sustain Member

WMNR's Scheduled Music

Click for Live Audio

Click for Archived Audio

WMNR's E-Newsletter

Sign Up for WMNR E-News

Get the WMNR app

Composer of the Day