Lisa D’Amour’s 2009 comedy-drama, “Detroit,” is still timely in its observations about the plight of the American middle class and the crumbling American Dream. GASP Theatre Company’s production puts the key points across with engaging casting and lively direction.
It’s set in a middle class neighborhood of an unnamed city (the play’s title is metaphorical). Mary and Ben are struggling to maintain their lifestyle on her paralegal salary after he lost his bank job. Now he’s working on a home business as a financial adviser.
The couple invites Sharon and Kenny, newly arrived next door, to a backyard cookout, putting up a front by serving expensive appetizers. Mary and Ben observe that Sharon and Kenny have no furniture and give vague answers about their circumstances. It turns out they, too, are pretending things are not dire.
D’Amour sets up a number of comic situations, including the husbands’ failed attempt at a boys’ night out and the wives’ aborted camping trip after getting lost. But there are many darker moments about drug and alcohol addictions, unrealistic plans for the future and desperate measures in hard times.
GASP is a new summer program combining adult alumni of Cardinal Gibbons High School’s drama program with area theater professionals. For this second annual production, director Jack Prather paces the action energetically and gets nicely delineated characterizations from his cast.
Allison Driskill’s Mary is amusingly obsessive about keeping up appearances, but is also in deep denial about her problems. Matt Lyles’ Ben is outwardly affable but inwardly stressed over dwindling finances. Katie Barrett capably demonstrates Sharon’s mood swings and emotional breakdowns, while Daniel Doyle gives Kenny a jovial swagger that hides startling secrets. In a second act cameo, Shawn Smith invests former neighborhood resident, Frank, with charming warmth, reminiscing about friendlier days decades ago.
Pete Morello’s set design creatively accomplishes several required technical effects, but at Friday’s opening the lighting was spotty, often leaving actors in the dark.
The play’s strong language and sexual situations make it mature entertainment. While not all the depths are plumbed, the production reflects today’s economic and social ills.
If you go
What: “Detroit.” Presented by GASP Theatre Company
Where: Cardinal Gibbons High School, 1401 Edwards Mill Road, Raleigh
When: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 6-8
Info: 919-364-0535 or bit.ly/gaspdetroit