Skeleton Crew is impelling at Marin Theatre

(l-r) Dez (Christian Thompson) is challenged by Faye (Margo Hall) and Reggie (Lance Gardner) in Skeleton Crew playing at Marin Theater Company. Photo by Ken Berne

Skeleton Crew: Drama by Dominique Morisseau. Directed by Jade King Carroll. Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley, CA.  415.388.5200 or

Through Februrary 18, 2018 at Marin Theatre Company.  and March 7-April 1 at Lucie Stern Theatre, Palo Alto by or 650-463-1960.

Skeleton Crew is impelling at Marin Theatre  Rating: ★★★★☆

Award winning Dominique Morisseau has created a trilogy about her native home of Detroit. The first in the series was Detroit ’67 that brought to life the “riots, racial tensions and the economic instability” of that trouble time. She then switched to a more personal note with Paradise Blue where a “former musician, Blue, sells his beloved jazz club in order to live out his dreams” at the expense of his partner and band. In Skeleton Crew the last play in the cycle her interest revolves around family in the generic sense.

The time is 2008 and the auto crisis has hit Detroit extremely hard with auto plants closing leading to economic/personal crisis. She has created four diverse characters whose lives are intertwined at their workplace. That workplace is auto parts stamping factory that still functions with a minimum of workers (skeleton crew). With other factories already closed there is the probability that this factory may be next.

The four members of this “work-place family” are Faye who has worked for 29 years and is the union representative. She takes a “motherly” interest in her co-workers but has her own personal problems that bit by bit become known through dialog and relationships with the others. Her one individual desire is to keep her job for another year to earn a retirement package that includes health insurance.

A young very pregnant unmarried Shanita had begun work as menial on the assembly line and her diligence is recognized. Her pride in her work is palpable and respected by others but that may not be enough to be kept on the job. Her desires are to provide a good home for child.

Dez is a volatile outspoken but good worker with unrealistic plans to start his own business and lives a dangerous life outside the factory. He too has dreams no matter how improbable that they will ever reach fruition.

The fourth character is Reggie (Lance Gardner), their foreman, is a decent man who walks a tenuous line between the workers and the bosses. His future revolves around his actually family and paying the mortgage yet he like Faye reluctantly feels a responsibility to his “work family.”

It all begins when Reggie who has ties to Faye tells her that the plant is scheduled for closure but is not to tell the others until he has a chance to get the best severance package for his crew. Drama and conflict share equal time with the more quiet moments and that juxtaposition gives power to each character but for different reasons. Dez’s outbursts are frightening and his gentleness with Shanti does not ring true.

The first act competently defines characters with enough hints to make the brilliant second act both a shock and plausible even though there are unanswered questions about relationships and the final outcome of the characters’ eventual lives.

The acting by each player is individualistic yet adds greatly to the ensemble effect that gives weight to the entire production. Margo Hall as Faye gets the Oscar displaying vulnerability and strength behind toughness and feigned bluster. Lance Gardner is perfect as he progresses from the authoritarian plant manager to the uncertain almost champion of the worker when he challenges management. You will love Tristan Cunningham’s Shanti who makes her pride of working on the assembly line almost believable. Christian Thompson’s intensity as Dez sometimes overpowers the entire cast and early in the play his dialog becomes unintelligible.

Director Jade King Carroll is well acquainted with Morisseau’s work and has understanding of her motifs that are brilliantly handled with superb pacing.

The Ed Haynes’ set is a realistic run-down break room, with refrigerator, well-worn sofa, bulletin boards crowded with signs of rules/admonishments and clothes lockers. This is enhanced by Steve Mannshardt harsh lighting, Karin Graybash factory  sounds and Mike Post projections against the back wall of the production lines.

CAST: Tristan Cunningham as Shanita; Lance Gardner as Reggie; Margo Hall as Faye; Christian Thompson as Dez.

CREATIVE TEAM: ​Dominique Morisseau, Playwright; Jade King Carroll, Director;  Ed Haynes, Scenic Designer; ​Callie Floor, Costume Designer; Steven B. Mannshardt, Lighting Designer; ​Karin Graybash, Sound Designer; Chris Fitzer, Props Master; Christina Hogan, Stage Manager.

Running time is two hours plus an intermission. Highly recommended.

The entire production, including set, costumes and cast, will move to the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, for TheatreWorks’ presentation running March 7-April 1. For tickets and information, call (650) 463-1960 or visit

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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