A provisional family of autoworkers face adversity in Detroit in ‘Skeleton Crew’ (review)



Essential Theatre performing Skeleton Crew
Photo credit: Sydne Vigille



How much time is left? Who has the most to lose? When will the suspense of it all hit the fan?

These are the questions that are constantly evolving in Dominque Morisseau’s Skeleton Crew, directed by Chris Berry, which is the third production in a cycle of plays Morisseau has created titled “The Detroit Projects.”

Four resolute main characters set the scene at one of the last auto stamping plants in the perilous city of Detroit.

When the possibility of foreclosure evades the small auto plant, Faye, the union representative must choose between trusting the plant’s foreman, Reggie, or confiding in the rest of her coworkers, who include characters Shanita and Dez.

The plot thickens when auto parts continue to go missing and Dez is found with a gun.

The morality of Skeleton Crew winds back time to the vast recession of 2008.

There were many people during that time who had a lot to lose, like the hustle and grind character that is Dez.

Damon King Jr., a fourth-year theater performance student, played the role of Dez.

“Dez is everybody’s ‘homeboy,’ he’s playful but can also be stern and is very goal driven. He’s definitely, in a way, a businessman. The director's vision is for me to be a relatable guy, be that ‘homeboy’ that everybody has. He sees those aspects in me and he lets me know that I got it,” said King.

Essential Theatre performing Skeleton Crew
Photo credit: Sydne Vigille

There were even older people, like Faye, who only had a short time until a retirement and lost their jobs before they could reap the rewards after working for a company for a very long time.

Taylor Jones, a fourth-year theater performance student with an emphasis in English, plays the role of Faye.

“This play is one that is relatable to all walks of life with the characters, their language, and their issues. This play opens us up to relevant topics today that aren’t really discussed or dealt with,” said Jones.

Putting on such a thought-provoking play required time to make it all happen.

Kaitlin Terrell, a third-year theater performance student, was given the role of assistant stage manager.

“The rehearsal process went great. We started the rehearsal process in October and we have made Skeleton Crew really come to life. There was only a setback in breaks, but we made it back and made the show,” said Terrell.

Aspects that have made such a difference since the beginning of these rehearsals included hip-hop dancers and a projector, which adds a fun and modern twist to the play.

There is irony found in many scenarios in the show.

The “heat” term that is consistently mentioned but in reference to different phrases. “Heat” as in gun. “Heat” as in a lack of thermal energy to sustain the winter in Detroit. “Heat” as in high-tension arguments.

Terms and ideas like this are spread throughout the play and are given physical identities like the smell of the smoke in the theater and the whirring of the coffee machine.

Everything is real.

With that being said, Skeleton Crew is a highly recommended production that foreshadows the possibilities of what the future could bring for the American “everyman.”

Skeleton Crew will be shown Jan. 24-28 in the Charles Winter Wood Theatre, Edmonds Stage.

For more information on upcoming FAMU Essential Theater projects, visit famu.edu/essentialtheatre.