The Theatreguide.London Review
Cottesloe Theatre Summer 2012
In a typical American suburb a couple are throwing a barbecue for their new neighbours. The hosts are typical white-collar types and their guests are blue-collar workers moving up to home ownership.
But the banker has lost his job, his wife drinks too much, the newcomers are even more downmarket than they seemed, and both women seem to be living on the edge of hysteria.
In that first scene playwright Lisa D'Amour tells us everything she has to say in this play – suburbia might have been a sort of paradise when new homes first replaced cornfields in the 1950s, but now it is a place of failure, frustration, secrets and denial.
But D'Amour has a whole play yet to go and, either mistrusting her ability to be clear or her audience's ability to understand, just repeats herself for a further ninety minutes, making the same point over and over, ever more explicitly, until, in a kind of desperation herself, she brings on a wholly new character in the final five minutes to say it all out loud in a direct statement.
There are plays to be written about the darkness behind the manicured lawns and two-car garages of suburbia – Alan Ayckbourn has written something like 75 of them – so it is not the message of D'Amour's play that is at fault.
Despite some strained plot twists and revelations, Detroit remains a telling twenty-minute sketch extended, stretched thin and just repeating itself to ever-diminishing returns.
Austin Pendleton directs with admirable dedication, and Stuart McQuarrie, Justine Mitchell, Will Adamsdale, Clare Dunne and Christian Rodska, given characters of barely one dimension each, struggle earnestly to flesh them out and make them seem real.
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