GVSU Theater Department presents Detroit

By Kate Branum | 2/12/17 10:27pm

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GVL / Courtesy - Jack Lane

by Jack Lane / Grand Valley Lanthorn

A person can easily find trouble if they look in the right places, and occasionally it finds them. Sometimes, trouble can live right next door.

The Grand Valley State University theater department will present Detroit, a dark comedy play written by Lisa D’Amour, beginning Friday, Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Louis Armstrong Theater in the Performing Arts Center on the Allendale Campus.

Detroit takes place in a modern-day suburb outside of a midsize American city. The plot revolves around the lives of two couples, long-time area natives, Ben and Mary, and mysterious newcomers who move into the empty house next door to them, Sharon and Kenny. To welcome the couple to the block, Ben and Mary fire up the grill and invite them over for a small get-together. What begins as a friendly suburban barbeque party soon spirals out of control as the couples grow closer.

“The most important message in this show for me, personally, is to follow your dreams and let nothing stand in your way,” said David Van Alstyne, the GVSU student actor playing Ben. “In life, it's so easy for us to get stuck in ruts or to let our goals pass us by, blaming life's circumstances or other people. But if our hearts are truly set on something, we should go out and give everything we have to achieve that dream, even if means things crash and burn for a bit.”

The dynamic characters portray typical American citizens who are seemingly average on the outside, but harbor some deeper issues. Newly-unemployed Ben struggles with fresh financial problems while his wife, Mary battles a steadily-growing alcohol addiction. Kenny and Sharon fall slightly lower on the socioeconomic scale and find themselves hustling to make ends meet.

“These two couples who are very different come together and start this friendship, and the deeper they get into the friendship, the more secrets come out and they realize that we all have our secrets and we all are kind of the same at the end of the day,” said Robbie Bell, Detroit director.

The play became a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize after it first debuted in 2010 at the Steppenwolf Theater Company in Chicago. Detroit made its way to Playwrights Horizons in New York in 2012 and later won the Obie Award for Best New American Play in 2013.

D’Amour is a playwright, performer, former Carnival Queen and alumna of New Dramatists from New Orleans. Louisiana. Her work has been produced by well-known theaters across America, including: Steppenwolf Theatre, Children’s Theater Company, Clubbed Thumb, the Walker Arts Center and the Kitchen. Currently, she is a member of PearlDamour, an interdisciplinary performance company who create performances both inside and outside of traditional theater spaces, known for its large-scale theater and installation-based shows.

Detroit is a story that puts the audience in the shoes of a middle-class couple whose marriage and daily life is affected by the deteriorating economic circumstances that surround them. The play communicates a message of caution, using strategic comedy to depict the aftermath of opening both heart and home to strangers. Detroit also encourages audience members not to judge people based on first impressions.

“Everyone is going through something and you don’t necessarily know what that person is struggling with, so (the play urges audience members to) be kind to everyone,” Bell said.

Additional performances will be held Saturday, Feb 18 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 pm. and Sunday, Feb. 19 at 2 p.m. Tickets for Detroit can be purchased at the box office inside the Performing Arts Center for $6 in advance or $7 the day of the show. 

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