An American play by Lisa D’Amour was our first theatre trip in June. Entitled Detroit and playing at The Cottesloe it centres around two disparate couples whose backyards join. Like Clybourne Park, Detroit aims to dissect America suburban life by showing how the two households interact. Unlike Clybourne Park, it doesn’t really succeed, although I did thoroughly enjoy the process, mainly because of the excellent performances of the cast.Kenny (Will Adamsdale) and Sharon (Clare Dunne) have just moved in next door. Fresh out of rehab and twitchy and nervous, on the surface they couldn’t be more different from Ben (Stuart McQuarrie) and Mary (Justine Mitchell). Whilst the newcomers are struggling to keep body and soul together and trying very hard to hide their inadequacies, their neighbours are solidly middle class, successful professionals. Or are they? As the play progresses we realise the four of them have more in common than we realise. Mary turns out to be a closet drinker, whilst husband, Ben is living a lie. Having been fired from his bank job, he stays at home all day, supposedly designing a financial services website. Except that he isn’t as immersed in this activity as he should be; most of the time he is acting out his fantasy of being a British geography teacher called Ian. This disclosure makes for one of the funniest moments in the play, of which I have to say there are several.
All four actors portray their character traits to perfection. Will Adamsdale playing Kenny as a coiled spring always has us wondering and worrying what he will do next. He is perfectly matched with Clare Dunne’s Sharon who, with her wild intensity, is also an accident waiting to happen. Justine Mitchell as the outwardly perfect hostess and wife, wonderfully highlights the barely hidden suppressed rage, whilst Stuart McQuarrie as Ben, although a genial soul is bit by bit losing his grip on reality.
What I mostly enjoyed about Detroit was the not knowing where the play was going and worrying about what was going to happen to the four protagonists in the process. A wonderful moment towards the end seems to confirm this; a brilliant piece of directing and staging by Austin Pendleton and Kevin Depinet respectively. However this positive reaction is sadly lost thanks to the clumsy ending. A fifth character played by Christian Rodska is brought on to explain everything. The only problem is everything is not explained and his appearance is strangely out of sync with what’s gone on before.
For me Detroit is entertaining, I’m glad I’ve seen it but it’s not particularly a must see.