'Detroit' at Carpenter Square
“Detroit” is the award winning play by Lisa D’Amour, directed by Rhonda Clark and now playing at Carpenter Square Theatre. The story could take place in any major city with older suburbs full of starter homes and empty nesters. In “Detroit” a young, happily married couple find themselves befriending new neighbors, another apparently up and coming young couple dealing with a few setbacks. Slowly chinks in the armor of personal happiness appear as the couples relate to each other. This is a not a story of falling in or out of love; it is a story of falling out of self-respect and whether it can be rescued. Clark’s direction brings the comedy of D’Amour’s tale to sensitive and delicious fruition.
Ben and Mary are established residents of the neighborhood who enjoy a simple life cooking out on their patio. Rather suddenly, the empty fixer-upper next door has been rented by a younger couple, Sharon and Kenny, who have recently come from a rehab facility. The characters relate with great comedic effect as they learn the best and the worst of casual acquaintances; the impending doom comes as a surprise.
Clark not only directs “Detroit”; she and Ben Hall have designed a realistic set for the two back yards. The technical expertise of Carpenter Square’s crew manifests perfectly as usual in costuming, lighting, and sound. The actors move in the slightly cramped space with assurance and competence, as their characters may be clumsy and lacking fine motor skill control as they drink more than they should.
Michelle Swink is cast as Mary, the slightly bored housewife with a settled and considerate lifestyle. She changes with great subtlety yet clearly learns much from her experiences with the neighbors and her husband Ben. Barry Thurman is Ben, working hard to pay his mortgage and buy the best TV set for a weekend of football. Thurman has been away from theatre for 19 years and is a welcome return to Carpenter Square. Stevie Michelle Aycock is Sharon, the brightly vivacious new neighbor. Aycock is new to the Oklahoma City Metropolitan area having recently come from New York where she has been very active in all aspects of theatre and film. Aycock performs the look of gaunt and grey with aplomb. Greg Crall is new to Carpenter Square; his portrayal of Kenny, the happy-go-lucky ‘jake’ of all trades but master of nothing is boundlessly energetic. Michael Hardwick plays Frank, the long suffering but resigned landlord of the fixer-upper home occupied by Sharon and Kenny. Aycock makes a most impressive transition as the audience slowly realizes just how wasted she is, how wasted her life. Crall, Thurman, Swink and Hardwick keep up with her and as a result Clark has a worthy comedy that will certainly impress any audience.
Planning for the future and conservative attitudes are laudable traits, if somewhat stodgy. Living spontaneously is liberating, but it also has many drawbacks. The two approaches may be able to teach each other something valuable. One can only hope that the Sharon’s and Kenny’s of this world discover the importance of sobriety without losing the spontaneity that comes from making the most of each moment. There is some language, but it is certainly not gratuitous.
With 30 great seasons under the belt, Carpenter Square’s season 31 is off to a solid start. “Detroit” shows through September 27, 2014 at 800 W. Main. Visit email@example.com or call 405-232-6500.