Review: SKELETON CREW Asks When is Doing Just Enough Really Good Enough?
As third installment of Dominique Morisseau's acclaimed trilogy "The Detroit Project," SKELETON CREW follows four co-workers-Faye, Dez, Reggie and Shanita- blue-collar workers at a soon-to-be shut down Detroit auto factory in 2008 as they navigate the instability and uncertainty in their personal lives as well as at work. Highlighting the layered relationships and drama involved, each character's patience and loyalty are tested as the plant's future comes into question, forcing them to make hard choices to ensure their individual survival. As each decides whether doing just enough is really good enough, their unique problems come to light through Morisseau's masterful command of dialect and dialogue which depth and authenticity to a story about the very local implications of global change.
Directed by Patricia McGregor at The Geffen Playhouse, this emotionally-charged play looks deep into the hearts and souls of its four characters, with all four actors brilliantly commanding the stage from start to finish. Caroline Stefanie Clay portrays Faye, the factor's UAW union rep who finds herself caught between a rock and a hard place when her supervisor Reggie (DB Woodside) informs her privately that the factory will soon be closing, throwing everyone out of work. Asking her to keep the information confidential to insure his own employment to the end, puts Faye, his mother's former lover who first got him a job at the factory, in a difficult position with her co-workers Dez (Armari Cheaton) who is looking forward to soon opening his own auto repair shop, and the pregnant single mother-to-be Shanita (Kelly McCreary) who puts Faye in a difficult predicament after sharing she has been offered a good position elsewhere but has turned it down to stay where she feels more valuable.
Adding to the realism of the play is the factory's multilevel scenic design by Rachel Myers with the factory assembly line above, effectively representing a movable line of equipment each works on during scene breaks, complete with steam rising from to add authentically to the need for the protective yellow vests and facial masks each must wear while on the clock, thanks to costume designer Emilio Sosa. Underneath the line is the break room for all employees to enjoy meals, breaks, clock in and out, use their lockers, and share stories that draw us into their lives, hardships, personal histories, and dreams for the future. Pablo Santiago's lighting design, along with Everett Elton Bradman's sound design, focus attention exactly where it is needed, especially during scene breaks with Faye often in a spotlight seated downstage while smoking and contemplating her next move, as the sounds and sights of the factory envelop the theater.
But we soon learn Faye does more than visit the break room when she emerges in a wonderfully rainbow-hued towel very early in the morning before others arrive. When she is discovered and confesses to Reggie that she has been living at the factory because it's winter and too cold to sleep in her car (after losing the home once shared with his mother after not being able to make the mortgage payments after her death), Reggie is furious that Faye did not tell him sooner since he would have offered to take her into his home where his wife and children would have welcomed her. But why has she chosen not to do that? Again, it's one of the many "between a rock and hard place" instances in Faye's life, especially given her ranking position with the union and long friendship with her boss.
And what about Dez who is caught stealing parts for use in his own shop after he finds out the plant will be closing? Will Reggie be able to forgive him and not tell the powers that be, especially after finding a gun hidden in Dez's backpack? And how will Shanita feel about her decision to stay at the plant, as well as her developing relationship with Dez once the truth is Just who will survive as the plant gets down to its skeleton crew just before closing? And until then, when is doing just enough, really good enough? I guarantee you will be considering that question as you walk out to Stevie Wonder's "Living (Just Enough) for the City."
SKELETON CREW runs through July 8, 2018 in the Gil Cates Theater at The Geffen Playhouse in Westwood, with shows on Tues-Fri 8pm, Sat 3pm and 8pm, Sun 2pm, 7pm. Tickets: $30-$90, available at https://tickets.geffenplayhouse.com. TODAY TIX: $20 Mobile Rush tickets will be available at 9:00 a.m. each performance day on a first-come, first-served basis at https://www.todaytix.com/x/los-angeles/shows/4944-skeleton-crew/rush Please note this production contains fog effects, profanity and partial nudity. Run time is 2 hours and 15 minutes, including one 15 minute intermission.
Photos by Chris Whitaker