Skeleton Crew

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Photo: Ahron Foster Review
With the Dow Jones on a roller coaster that make the ones at Great Adventure look tame and a Presidential election that could lead to economic disaster, who among us can’t relate to the fear of imminent unemployment facing the Detroit automobile factory workers who populate Dominique Morriseau’s outstanding new drama, “Skeleton Crew,” now at the Atlantic Stage 2. But it’s far more than the topical relevance of the two-hour work (which is actually set in 2008) that commands our attention, it’s Morriseau’s remarkable skill in crafting the interpersonal relationships among the four people that populate a factory break room (brought to detailed life by the gifted Michael Carnahan).

Chief among this is Faye (a magnificent Lynda Gravatt), one of the factory’s most senior skilled workers and union foreman. A tough-talking lesbian who has battling breast cancer (among other woes), Faye still looks out in an almost-maternal way for her compatriots, the ambitious if hothead Des (a superb Jason Dirden), the very pregnant and good-natured Shanita (a wonderful Nikiya Mathis) who fight and flirt in equal measure.

But her biggest concern is for Reggie (a brilliant Wendell K. Franklin), the factory foreman and the son of Faye’s now-dead best friend (and possible lover) Katherine. A former worker himself, Reggie has trouble balancing his new responsibilities (which include not telling Des and Shanita about the plant’s upcoming closing) with his roots. Does his need to provide for his family, and keeping their shiny new home, outweigh his loyalty to the workers? And how does he handle loyalty to Faye, whom he thinks of as his aunt, who makes it very hard to be kind to her, personally or professionally?

Morriseau, who has earned many awards in her rather short career, knows these people and their situation inside out, even if she states the entire work is fictional. (She is from Detroit herself). And she also knows how to masterfully let plot twists seep out in a surprisingly natural fashion, so that we’re never sure what’s coming next, while ultimately everything that happens seems inevitable. And her language is also both realistic (in fact, some audience members may have trouble understanding some dialogue) yet poetic.

If “Skeleton Crew” often seems like it owes a debt to the work of the late August Wilson, part of the credit belongs to Morriseau and part to director Ruben Santiago-Hudson, who as both actor and director, has proven to be one of Wilson’s greatest interpreters.

If Morriseau (who has set some of her previous works in Detroit) is going for a 10-play cycle about Detroit, count me in. She’s got my motor running.
By Brian Scott Lipton

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Jason Dirden, Wendell B. Franklin, Lynda Gravatt, Nikita Mathis, Adesola Osakalumi

Open/Close Dates
Opening 1/6/2016
Closing 2/14/2016

Box Office

Theatre Info
Atlantic Theater Co. Stage 2
330 West 16th Street
New York, NY 10011