DETROIT (the play) goes out in flames at Aurora Theatre.

Kenny, Mary, Sharon, and Ben (l-r, Patrick Kelly Jones*, Amy Resnick*, Luisa Frasconi, Jeff Garrett*) have a wild backyard barbeque in Aurora’s Bay Area Premiere of Detroit

DETROIT: Comedy/Satire. Written by Lisa D’Amour. Directed by Josh Costello. Aurora Theatre Company, 2081 Addison St., Berkeley, CA. Box office: (510) 843-4822 or June 19 – July 19, 2015

DETROIT (the play) goes out in flames at Aurora Theatre.  Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Have you ever wondered what qualities make a play an award winner and who are the judges that make those decisions? After seeing Aurora Theatre’s production of Lisa D’Amour’s play Detroit be assured that those questions may be foremost in your mind. On opening night the audience gave appreciative applause but not the usual standing ovation from their loyal subscription base.  In fact, more than one audience member took furtive glances on their wrist watches during the 100 minute, without intermission running time.

First, the title is a metaphor for implosion of the American Dream typified by the decay of the city of Detroit that was so pertinently documented in a recent issue of National Geographic Magazine. The end of jobs and loss of income leave little hope for a return of a local productive society nor a way out personal quagmires. D’Amour spends 90 of those 100 minutes semi-demonstrating these points based on the lives of two unlikeable couples. She has tacked on a 10 minute monolog for an elderly man who bemoans the “good-old-days” reemphasizing the societal destruction.

All the action takes place in the backyards of two adjacent homes. A married couple, Mary (Amy Resnick) and Ben (Jeff Garrett) are giving a barbeque for a couple who have moved into the run-down unfurnished next door home. They are Sharon (Luisa Frasconi) and Kenny (Patrick Kelly Jones). They are impecunious and recovering drug addicts trying to rebuild their lives. Ben has lost his job as a bank clerk and they are living, barely, off of Mary’s salary as a para-legal.  Ben is attempting to build a web site that will help those in financial trouble.

Not much happens until late in the play when all hell breaks loose emphasizing the old adage “in vino veritas.” Before the author gets to that point her methods of character development mainly involve monologs. Those monologs are disguised as conversational dialog usually when one of the characters is under the influence of alcohol or drugs or is having a psychiatric break. Since this a satirical comedy there is a modicum of humor but there are long lapses between laughs. Symbolism abounds but is hardly intellectual or remarkably cogent.

The ending is a stunner (not to be revealed here) and accolades are deserved by the artistic staff of set designer Mikiko Uesugi, sound Designer Cliff Caruthers and light designer Kurt Landisman even though the scene changes are a bit cumbersome.  Much of the fault of this production can be attributed to the heavy-handed approach of director Josh Costello and the physicality of the staging that could benefit with a lighter touch.

The actors give it their all with Amy Resnick giving her usual professional performance ably supported by Luisa Frasconi and Patrick Kelly Jones. Jeff Garret gives a confusing performance as Ben but it may be director Costello’s interpretation of the part.

CAST: Luisa Frasconi as Sharon; Jeff Garrett as Ben; Patrick Kelly Jones as  Kenny & Frank; Amy Resnick as Mary.

ARTISTIC STAFF: Director, Josh Costello; Wesley Apfel, Stage Manager; Daniel Banato, Props Artisan; Cliff Caruthers, Sound Designer; Christine Crook, Costume Designer; Kurt Landisman, Light Designer; Mikiko Uesugi, Set Designer; Lias D’Amour, Playwright

RUNTIME: 1 hour and 40 minutes with no intermission. Recommendation: Pass on the content but a should see for the staging.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of

Kenny, Mary, Sharon, and Ben (l-r, Patrick Kelly Jones*, Amy Resnick*, Luisa Frasconi, Jeff Garrett*) have a wild backyard barbeque in Aurora’s Bay Area Premiere of Detroit