Tall Tales: “Detroit” at Curious Theatre Company

Tall Tales: “Detroit” at Curious Theatre Company

Tickets here for “Detroit” at Denver’s Curious Theatre Company. Through June 19.

Karen Slack, Brian Landis Falkins, Amanda Berg Wilson, Josh Hartwell, courtesy Curious Theatre Company

Karen Slack, Brian Landis Falkins, Amanda Berg Wilson, Josh Hartwell, courtesy Curious Theatre Company

Buckle down or party on?

Resist the urge or grab another Pabst?

Cheetos or caviar?

Stay in your hole? Or borrow a cup of sugar from the neighbor and reach out?

Stay in your routine and pay the mortgage?

Or get out of town, break things up?

“Detroit” stares down the fissures in the American psyche. Work versus play. Plan versus relax. Develop discipline versus seize the moment. Where are we going? How are we going to get there if the soldiers in the army of the business and industry don’t have hope?

At the Curious Theatre, “Detroit” gives us a ringside seat. Sparring at first—gentle jabs. Then a few body blows. Temptation is scoring. Sobriety is on the run. And then, almost literally, a full-on meltdown in a devastating scene of over-indulgence, desire spiked in the red zone.

The set is another Curious Theatre Company stunner—scenic design by Michael Duran, lights by Shannon McKinney, sound by Jason Ducat. We are smack in the middle of side-by-side backyards. We are stuck in a hole in the big city, noisy streets and mayhem out there and our little patch of turf back here for relaxing, tugging on a cold one.

To our right, Mary (Karen Slack) and Ben (Josh Hartwell) are copers. They make do. The patio umbrella is quirky, the sliding door to the house requires fussing to make your way inside. The patio might not have been sealed correctly when the concrete was poured; the edges are cracking. Ben has been laid off (loan officer) from a bank. Mary is a paralegal. Ben’s new idea for income is to build a website to dispense prudent financial advice, but it’s taking some time to pull it together.

Over to visit are the couple that lives to our left, where the patio deck is unfinished and the house is, by comparison, plain. Sharon (Amanda Berg Wilson) and Kenny (Brian Landis Falkins) are a bit rough around the edges and Sharon lets on that they’ve been bouncing around from place to place, pinballs in the economy perhaps. Soon a key tidbit emerges: they are fresh from a stint in rehab where they met. They don’t drink. Sharon and Kenny have nothing and their jobs seem generic and undefined—warehouse for him; some sort of call center for her.

Can Mary and Ben help lend a hand, a bridge to stability? Or will a bit of Sharon and Kenny’s experience as master party-goers rub off on the more entrenched couple with commitments and routines? Soon, Mary is spilling her guts in a drunken, late-night confession to Sharon and we see that the ex-banker cranks NASCAR on the television and doesn’t seem to be doing very much. Ben and Mary’s toehold on life is tenuous.

And then, wounds. Of all kinds. No spoilers here. Dangers abound. The humans attack and needle each other, the hardscape environment inflicts its own damage. (The special effects throughout “Detroit” are spectacular.)

There’s a slow-burn sizzle as “Detroit” starts to cook, as the beers get cracked, as Sharon shows interest in Ben. She seems to want to get under his skin. Sharon is the spark plug, the igniter. She’s uncomfortably effusive in spots. We cringe at her over-enthusiasm. She encourages Mary to head off on a quickly-aborted camping trip—but in this metaphorical “Detroit,” there is no true escape.

Left to right: Karen Slack, Amanda Berg Wilson, Brian Landis Falkins, courtesy Curious Theatre Company

Left to right: Karen Slack, Amanda Berg Wilson, Brian Landis Falkins, courtesy Curious Theatre Company

This quartet of actors make a terrific ensemble. Curious Theatre Company regulars are familiar with Slack’s energetic, physical style. She’s loose and game for anything. The whole cast, including John Ashton in a wrap-up, walk-around role at the end amid the rubble and devastation, is terrific (directed by Chip Walton).

Grim? Yes. Several times Sharon notes that Ben’s phrases sound a bit British and she teases him gently about his accent. If the all-American free enterprise is the offspring of the British Empire, and if we are depending on the likes of these four to keep things rolling, then there isn’t much that’s free and there’s certainly not much enterprise.

If “Detroit” provides a harbinger of what’s to come, then the days for the kid empire are toast.

Party on.



Mark Stevens

Mark Stevens

Editor’s note: Telluride Inside… and Out’s monthly (more or less) column, Tall Tales, is so named because contributor Mark Stevens is one long drink of water. He is also long on talent. Mark was raised in Massachusetts. He’s been a Coloradoan since 1980. He’s worked as a print reporter, national news television producer, and school district communicator. He’s now working in the new economy and listed under “s” for self-employed. Mark has published two Colorado-based mysteries, “Antler Dust” (2007) and “Buried by the Roan” (2011). Midnight Ink published the third book, “Trapline,” in the fall of 2014 and is under contract for a fourth book in the series, too. For more about Mark, check out his website.

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