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Detroit

The name of the city conjures up images of the aftermath of economic warfare: block after block after mile of razed buildings, hundreds of thousands of foreclosures, pension theft, the destruction of U.S. manufacturing, the attempted seizure of public art, and the cut off of drinking water, all the way back to the riots of 1967. Still, there are pockets where the U.S. middle-class dream still exists ... or so it may seem.

Amanda Berg Wilson as Sharon and Josh Hartwell as Ben
Amanda Berg Wilson as Sharon
and Josh Hartwell as Ben
Photo: Michael Ensminger
It all begins innocuously in one of those pockets, with Ben (Josh Hartwell) and Mary (Karen Slack) having their new neighbors, Kenny (Brian Landis Folkins) and Sharon (Amanda Berg Wilson), over for dinner; but the cracks in the façade of normalcy quickly multiply, as the couples and their abodes release secrets, pressaging a dramatic arc that parallels that of Detroit.

Playwright Lisa D'Amour, who received a Pulitzer nomination for this work, provides a golden mix of psychological and situational ore that director Chip Walton and his talented cast and crew mill and polish to specimen quality.

Brian Landis Folkins as Kenny and Amanda Berg Wilson as Sharon
Brian Landis Folkins as Kenny
and Amanda Berg Wilson as Sharon
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Ben is a laid-off banker who aspires to set himself up as a financial planner, working on his new website while his unemployment checks approach expiration; Mary is a paralegal with a drinking problem; Kenny and Sharon are recently out of rehab—he does construction and she works in a call center.

Underneath these everyday profiles lie four very different sets of dreams, aspirations, and desires. As the recently transplanted outsiders, Kenny and Sharon's adventurous attitudes provide an attractive outside-the-box approach for Ben and Mary, whose main concerns have revolved around their jobs, mortgage, and possessions; in turn, Ben and Mary provide a model of stability for the itinerate Kenny and Sharon.

Amanda Berg Wilson as Sharon and Karen Slack as Mary
Amanda Berg Wilson as Sharon
and Karen Slack as Mary
Photo: Michael Ensminger
D'Amour's wonderful opportunities for verbal and physical comedic fireworks drive events forward for 110 non-stop minutes. Wilson breaks the ice with a few choice four-letter words, achieves lift-off with some lascivious moves and well-placed comments, and goes into orbit as she rides Sharon's wild ideas and dreams for all they are worth. Slack has a field day with Mary's barely contained desperation, giving away furniture, discussing her plantars wart, downing prodigious amounts of vodka, and reeling from both Kenny's and Sharon's advances.

Until the girls go camping, the men appear to be the voices of reason, but it is only their powers of repression that make it so. As the libations begin to flow, Kenny's libidinous instincts step to the fore. Folkins' rant on men's night out is a thriller, reeling in Hartwell's Mittyesque Ben. When the girls return and the truth telling begins, Hartwell's gleefully hilarious spilling of the beans strips away the final pretense of civilized behavior, setting the stage for a conflagration.

Karen Slack as Mary, Amanda Berg Wilson as Sharon, and Brian Landis Folkins as Kenny
Karen Slack as Mary,
Amanda Berg Wilson as Sharon,
and Brian Landis Folkins as Kenny
Photo: Michael Ensminger
If there were any doubts left about what we, as a society, have lost since that post-World War II dream of suburbia was shown to be an illusory pursuit, subject to ravaging by the same criminal financial interests that profit by the wars themselves, D'Amour gives us pause, in the Epilogue (nice cameo by John Ashton as Frank), to consider the big picture, before she returns to where she started, with Ben and Mary rediscovering what is really important.

Curious Theatre Company's Denver premiere of Lisa D'Amour's Detroit, directed by Chip Walton, runs through June 19th. For tickets: 303-623-0524 or curioustheatre.org.

Bob Bows

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