AISLE SAY San Francisco


by Lisa D'Amour
Presented by Aurora Theatre Company
Directed by Josh Costello
Aurora Theatre
2081 Addison St., Berkeley, CA / (510) 843-4822

Reviewed by Judy Richter

The title of Lisa D'Amour's play, "Detroit," is a symbol rather than a geographic reference. In fact, that city is never mentioned, and the action takes place somewhere in suburbia.

Aurora Theatre Company is giving the four-person play its Bay Area premiere. As it opens, a middle-aged couple, Ben (Jeff Garrett) and Mary (Amy Resnick), have invited their younger new neighbors over for a backyard barbecue.

Mary, a paralegal, and Ben are barely getting by after he's laid off from his job as a loan officer. Meanwhile, Kenny (Patrick Kelly Jones) and Sharon (Luisa Frasconi) have next to nothing, not even furniture for his late aunt's empty house. They're trying to start over after meeting in rehab, they say.

As their friendship continues, cracks in Ben and Mary's relationship are revealed.

In his program notes, artistic director Tom Ross says, "Detroit refers to the state of economic despair Americans were experiencing in 2009," when the play was written.

Directed by Josh Costello, this production lacks a sense of ensemble because Garrett's Ben tends to be one-dimensional. He often wears an expression of surprise, as if he doesn't quite understand what's happening. The other three actors create more complex characters.

Costello also allows one scene near the end to get out of control. It starts when the wives decide to go off on a camping trip, leaving the husbands to their own devices. The men are just about to enjoy a boys' night out, when the women unexpectedly return. The scene devolves into a too loud, too long drunken dance party that's no fun for the audience.

The backyard set is by Mikiko Uesugi with lighting by Kurt Landisman, sound and music by Cliff Caruthers, and costumes by Christine Crook.

Running about 100 minutes without intermission, the play does have its amusing moments and interesting scenes, but, at least as presented in this production, it doesn't seem to merit being named a Pulitzer Prize finalist for 2011.

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