Detroit as a Metaphor for Declining Middle Class

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sarah Sokolovic (left to right), Darren Pettie, David Schwimmer and Amy Ryan in 'Detroit' at Playwrights Horizons. Sarah Sokolovic (left to right), Darren Pettie, David Schwimmer and Amy Ryan in Detroit at Playwrights Horizons. (Jeremy Daniel)

The title of Lisa D’Amour’s play is Detroit, but the action doesn’t take place there – or at least not necessarily. However, an American city struggling with an economic downturn, drifting mostly helplessly in the current of shifting fortunes, makes an apt metaphor for individual Americans struggling with uncontrollable economic forces, too.

With that knowledge, you’re ready to see D’Amour’s play, which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2011, when it was originally produced by the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago.

Billed as “an ecstatic, dangerous new comedy,” Detroit is making its New York premiere in a production at Playwrights Horizons, recently extended through Oct. 26, directed by Anne Kauffman. The cast includes the familiar faces of Amy Ryan (“Gone Baby Gone,” “The Office”), David Schwimmer (“Friends”), and John Cullum (“Northern Exposure,” Urinetown The Musical).

New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood offers his thoughts on the play, its relevance today and how well those familiar actors lose themselves in their roles.

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