THEATER REVIEW: “Skeleton Crew” @ Dorset Theatre Festival [Berkshire on Stage]
Review by Roseann Cane
Photograph by Joey Moro
The only way to truly understand the impact of a crisis is to put a face on it, to humanize it, to make it accessible on a feeling level. We may read about current events, but as ghastly as it is to read about families being torn apart in modern-day America, seeing photos of grief-stricken victims and hearing the cries of terrified children makes us feel the urgency of the situation, and we’re able to empathize. This is what playwright Dominique Morisseau has accomplished with Skeleton Crew, the third play in her widely celebrated Detroit Project, now running at the Dorset Theatre Festival.
It’s 2008, and we find ourselves inside the breakroom of a Detroit auto plant – the last exporting auto plant, to be precise. A decade later, those of us in the audience already know about the collapse of the automobile industry and the devastating effect of its bankruptcy on the city. But in this intimate setting, we experience its effect on the lives of four individual African-American workers who have a long history with this workplace. Faye (Brenda Pressley) the union representative who has worked for the company for 29 years, looks forward to retiring in a year, when she will be able to collect her pension. A conflicted young man who strives to determine what he must do to survive at his job, Dez (Leland Fowler) hopes to eventually open his own repair shop. Shanita (Mirirai Sithole), a pregnant young, single woman, prides herself on her independence and depends on her employee benefits. Plant manager Reggie (Gabriel Lawrence) finds himself in the midst of a painful struggle: as the boss, he knows that the plant will shut down within a year. He’s responsible for firing staff, yet fiercely identifies with the workers and feels especially responsible for Faye, who was very close with his late mother.