BWW Interview: Caroline Davis & Simon Crowe of DETROIT at Centre Stage
Lisa D'Amour's dark comedy DETROIT kicks off the 2019-2020 Prisma Health Fringe Series at Centre Stage in Greenville, SC.
In DETROIT, the quintessential American backyard party turns into something much more dangerous when the conversation turns to suburbia, society, and marital conflicts. Add in alcohol and substance abuse
and the meat isn't the only thing getting cooked.
We asked two of the shows' actors, Caroline Davis and Simon Crowe, to give us a preview.
BWW: First off, please tell us a little about the play and your characters.
DAVIS: DETROIT follows the relationships of two couples who live next door to each other. Mary and Ben are older and more established, while Sharon and Kenny, fresh out of rehab, are still getting their feet on the ground. Despite their differences, the couples find, through the course of the play, that they have so much more in common than meets the eye. Sharon is a character who never sits still. She hates being bored, and she'll do anything it takes to keep life interesting. Though she seems like a goofball - she loves doing character voices and breaking out into song - she has an incredible emotional depth that stems from a desperate fear of being alone.
CROWE: Both couples are in a place of transition- for very different reasons - and the play builds to a moment when each character is shifted into a different way of living. It's a piece that some people will find quite harrowing, though it's leavened with humor and emotional honesty.
BWW: Tell us a little about the process so far - what kind of discoveries have you uncovered?
DAVIS: This has been an incredibly fun process for me. There's a freedom about Sharon that gives me almost unrestricted license to try things I've never done on stage before. My castmates have all been totally on board when I ask if I can serenade them with Journey or attack them with Cheez Whiz. As an actor, a text with so much rich imagery and humor combined with people willing to treat rehearsal as a laboratory full of experimentation is a dream.
CROWE: For me the rehearsal process has really been about ensemble building. I'm working with 3 of my 4 fellow actors for the first time, and I think for DETROIT to work the cast needs to be comfortable taking risks and being vulnerable with each other even in the play's quiet moments. It has been great fun feeling the show come together as we've all come to trust each other.
BWW: The show originally arrived during the economic downturn almost ten years ago. How do you think it still resonates?
DAVIS: The play definitely challenges the notions of the "American Dream" in ways that feel just as relevant, if not more relevant, than they did then. The couples seem to yearn for a bit of what the others have: Ben and Mary romanticize the spontaneity exhibited by Kenny and Sharon, while Kenny and Sharon long for the stability they see in Ben and Mary. The truth, however, is far more complicated: they're all broken, all trying their best, all financially anxious. And ultimately, they're all hoping for a better tomorrow that might - or might not - come. I feel that way today, and I've got a feeling I'm not the only one.
CROWE: The script emerged out of a specific economic recession, but it isn't laden with period detail or references. It continues to work because we're in a time when people feel unmoored, or to put it another way I think familiar things - cultural, political, economic - feel less certain than they have in some time.
BWW: Critics have said that the play has a "wicked eye for detail." How does that ring true for you?
DAVIS: The specificity of language stood out to me right away. D'Amour takes great care to write very naturally, which makes it a beast to memorize, but it makes the characters come alive. She brings that same specificity to her stage directions, too. She's the kind of playwright that won't just tell you that you're eating a hot dog, she'll make sure to tell you what's on the hot dog and how burned it is, too!
CROWE: To double down on my previous answer, there's a great specificity in the way that familiar things fail to work in the play. It's hard to describe without spoiling certain moments but Lisa D'Amour creates a sense that even the American backyard is no longer a place of safety. If we've done our jobs as theater artists then the unsettled feeling will grow in the audience as the show progresses.
BWW: What would you like audiences to take away from seeing this show?
DAVIS: In an age at which we all focus on how perfect we appear (on our resumes, through social media, whatever), it's nice to tell a story about how much beauty there can be in the messiness of human existence. Our failures make us who we are, and they unleash some exciting possibilities for tomorrow. There's also a very clear message about the cycles of substance abuse. I hope the audience leaves with a reminder of just how crucial it is for anybody who suffers from addiction to have a solid system of support. Not just on day one, but on every day after.
CROWE: Audience members will relate to the show - or not - in different ways, but I hope they'll appreciate that the play is alive to the moment, part of a social discourse that's very much ongoing. That relevance isn't something we always look to theater for, but maybe we should. It is certainly a quality that the art form is strong enough to provide.
DETROIT runs September 24 & 25, and October 1 & 2 at Centre Stage in downtown Greenville, SC. Tickets are $15. To reserve seats call the box office at 864.233.6733 or visit centrestage.org.