Margaret Helman
27th Jul 2015

Detroit. The name of the city has become a metaphor that symbolises the powerful growth of industrialisation in America and the innocence of the people and now - in the 21st century the downfall - the decline of the American dream.

Lisa D’Amour explores these themes through four characters that meet when they become neighbours domiciled in small, plain timber houses in a declining neighbourhood. Mary (Lisa Chappell) and her husband Ben (Ed Wightman) invite the couple that have just moved next door to a backyard barbecue to welcome them to the neighbourhood.

Sharon and Kenny (Claire Lovering and James O’Connell) are a young couple, slightly reticent at this first meeting, and the conversation is initially laboured. When Mary steps into the yard carrying a platter of high end delectable anti pasto offerings this establishes an introduction to our understanding of who they are as individuals. The social background of the two couples – their employment struggles – their fragile financial circumstances, their fractured employment history and their interior life – all of them deflecting their fears and searching for their dreams.

As the evening moves on the two women bond and they turn their dreams into a desire. Return to nature – go camping in the woods, not too far away - to breathe in the clear air and search for the stars. The men meanwhile drink and talk about money. Ben, a moneyman who previously worked in banking offers to give Kenny some financial planning advice.  

Mary and Sharon plan their camping trip and take off into the woods. The men are left behind – once again in Ben’s yard eating and drinking over a barbecue and flirting with the idea that they could just be two men in need of a boys night out.

The accidents that unfold reveal the truth of the four characters in this fascinating play that reflects the complexities of contemporary lifestyles, the broken hearts, the broken dreams, the social pressures that destroy choices, and the opiates that are seized upon as consolation.

A cameo performance by veteran actor Ronald Faulk was an inspired choice by the director and he anchored the last scene.

Ross McGregor’s tight direction allows the actors to give total credibility to their characters – well supported by Lisa D’Lamour’s fine writing.

The production team produced a fine interpretation of the built environment of downtown Detroit and the lighting creatively enhanced the direction of the play. The overall theme of the play was richly enhanced by the skills of the sound designer Jeremy Silver’s selection of songs: ‘What became of the broken hearted’, ‘I know I’ve got to find - some sort of piece of mind’, ‘Baby I believe you, please don’t leave me’, ‘Baby, baby where did our love go’ and more …

Detroit is a play for our times.

Detroit is running until August 16 at Eternity Playhouse in Darlinghurst. Check out the Sydney Scoop Calendar for times and tickets.


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