Monthly Archive for: ‘January, 2018’

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Skeleton Crew

Skeleton Crew. Written by Dominique Morisseau. Directed by Jade King Carroll. Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley, CA 94941

Set in the shabby industrial breakroom of an auto stamping plant, the lives of four co-workers is put under the microscope in the third of Dominique Morisseau’s Detroit cycle trilogy. When rumors of an imminent plant shutdown start to swirl, the stress and anxiety wreak havoc on longtime employee Faye, pregnant Shanita, young and angry Dez and their supervisor Reggie. Morisseau skillfully documents the cause and effect the Great recession would have on people whose very lives hang in the balance.

Raised in Detroit, Morisseau draws her characters from real life, and writes with in a gritty, ultra-realism that is authentic and deeply human. Director Jade King Carroll has previously directed Moriseau’s Sunset Baby and Autumn’s Harvest and has a great feel for the language and attitudes required of the characters. The skeleton crew are blue-collar workers struggling to make ends meet, suddenly confronted with the inevitable shutdown of their plant. Margo Hall is Faye, the lesbian Union Rep and resident momma looking out for her younger co-workers. She’s motherly to pregnant Shanita, heling her pick a name for her unborn child and bringing in special coffee to share. She challenges the strident Dez who’s militancy and defiance threaten his job. She has a past with Supervisor Reggie and will push him to a confrontation with upper management in the play’s fantastic second act.

Tristan Cunningham (Shanita) and Margo Hall (Faye) contempl;ate baby names. Photo by Kevin Berne.

Tristan Cunningham is the sassy Shanita, optimistic to the extreme and enthusiastic about her future. She’s committed to the plant even though they treat her and other workers like dead weight. Christian Thompson plays Dez with intense energy. He is the antagonist of much of the action; confronting Reggie at every turn carrying a concealed weapon to work, and admonishing Faye for not protecting the workers she represents. Lance Gardner is heartbreaking as the ‘boss man’, enforcing increasingly stricter work rules, attempting to bridge the gap between management and labor.

Lance Gardner (Reggie) is devastated by his confrontation with upper management. Photo by Kevin Berne.

Discoveries are illuminated throughout the play; Faye is now homeless, living at the plant, Dez is planning his own business and making the moves on Shanita, Reggie struggles with his ties to the workers and his obligations to his bosses, and Shanita’s future is put at risk. The dialogue is brisk, confrontational and sometimes humorous. Faye tells Dez “if ifs were fifths, we’d all be drunk”. When her destitute situation is revealed, Faye says she “running on soul”, its all she left.

Romance brew between Shanita (Tristan Cunningham) and Dez (Christian Thompson). Photo by Kevin Berne.

Their sanctuary is the breakroom, realistically designed by Ed Haynes with its dilapidated fridge, sparse electrical outlets, crowded bulletin boards and small lockers. The technical aspects are wonderfully imagined. Steve Mannshardt provides harsh fluorescent lighting, Karin Graybash delivers the droning sounds of the production line and Mike Post projects images of that line against the back wall. Callie Floor dresses Faye in both her work uniform (vest, boots, goggles) but also the clothes of someone comfortable at home.

The setting is 2008, when Detroit was crumbling under the recession. Morisseau offers a human perspective to the unfolding catastrophe. Her characters are the everyman struggling with the huge issues of self-worth, lack of options, and economic survival. Detroit’s auto meltdown would reverberate throughout the country affecting millions of Americans. Skeleton Crew is a stunning and intense microcosm of our shared cultures.

Performances run through February 18th, 2018   415.388.5200

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