by Byron Woods
In GASP Theatre Company’s production of state-of-the-suburbs drama Detroit, it’s hard to say which is more disturbing: realizing that neighborhoods like the one depicted on designer Pete Morello’s backyard set weren’t always as they are now, or acknowledging that future versions may be even more dysfunctional.
When Sharon (a capable but not always audible Katie Barrett) asks early on why the word “neighbor” is still in our dictionaries, it’s clear that the middle class isn’t the only construct under attack in playwright Lisa D’Amour’s world; the whole notion of community may be going away as well. Sharon’s just moved with her partner, Kenny (Daniel Doyle), next door to Mary (the pensive Allison Driskill) and Ben (a likeable Matt Lyles), a slightly more conventional couple.
GASP Theatre Company comprises adult graduates of Cardinal Gibbons High School’s drama program. Director Jack Prather has assembled a talented quartet, although all seem between five to 10 years too young to fully convince in these roles, before Shawn Smith’s welcome second-act cameo.
Over a series of backyard dinners, both couples struggle in a shifting time in America. The banking crisis has already cost Ben his loan officer job; that stress is slowly destabilizing Mary and his marriage. Gradually, we learn that Sharon and Kenny are rebuilding from zero, recently emerging from rehab. Despite the odds, their differences and the times, the two pairs bond. As they do, unlikely survival strategies flow in both directions.
Despite that, it’s clear that things cannot continue as they are, in D’Amour’s world or ours. The current—and decaying—social and economic orbits leave one irresistible question at the end of this thought-provoking work: What do these couples, backyards and communities look like 10 years from now?