REVIEW: DETROIT ’67

at Curious Theatre Company

by Michael Mulhern

Curious Theatre presents the world premiere of Dominque Morisseau’s DETROIT ‘67, now through February 24th. It’s the summer of 1967, and the soulful sounds of Motown are breaking records and breaking down barriers. Siblings Chelle and Lank make ends meet by running an unlicensed bar in their Detroit basement, a risky business as police crack down on after-hours joints in black neighborhoods. When Lank offers shelter to an injured white woman, tensions escalate both in their home and in their community—and they find themselves caught in the middle of the violent ’67 uprising. Detroit ‘67 explores police brutality, immense racial divide, and a powder keg of emotions.

Curious Theatre is no stranger to producing thought compelling dramas dealing with African American issues including White Guy on the Bus, The Brothers Size, The Whipping Man and Clybourne Park. I have to say that this haunting script is an eerie and distressing reminder America’s prejudicial past. It also concerns me how the themes of this show are still relevant in this modern and #woke day and age. I hope that this poignant play of our painful past is a beacon of truth into the racial scars that we should never revert back to. I also commend Curious Theatre for staging this pertinent play perfectly in their theatre season to coincide with Black History Month. Like the music featured during the show and the soul that poured out of the turntables and 8-tracks during that time, this show is all about passion – the highs and the lows. This period piece is definitely something that everyone should see and experience for themselves.

Jada Suzanne Dixon was a shining star during the entire show and you could not take your eyes off of her charismatic portrayal of the nurturing and loving Chelle. I feel like we experienced every emotion with Jada and her final scene brought the entire audience to tears. Cajardo Lindsey was such a nice compliment opposite Jada as her brother Lank. It was his passion and drive that commanded the audience’s attention and he was once again a delight to watch onstage. I have had the pleasure of seeing both Cajardo and Jada in multiple shows in the past and can proudly say that they are two of the most important African American actors here in Denver and should not be missed! Just think of them as the Denzel Washington and Viola Davis of Denver (and Yes that is a hint that they should do Fences together!!!!).

Ilasiea Gray was a breath of fresh air as the adorable Bunny. She made the audience smile every time she graced the stage and was a nice break from all of the turbulent drama mounting in this play. Frank Taylor Green truly impressed me as the engaging and charismatic Sly. For the most part Frank plays Lank right hand man and lives up to his name of Sly, but it was those tender moments with Chelle that made the audience fall in love with him till the heartbreaking end. I am not sure if it was the character or the actress but I did not care for Anastasia Davidson as Caroline. With so many strong .  From being badly beaten to working for the family, to hiding in fear and flirting with the brother; her role just seemed all over the place and didn’t come off as believable especially with so many strong actors in the cast. I will say that her final moments on stage were quite touching and made me want to see her in another future show

Idris Goodman was admirable in his Curious Theatre debut as director. Not only did he put together a stellar cast but he also pushed them to discover and really explore their characters to elevate the production and the story. Even though the pace may have been a little slow, the show had a nice flow to it and really engaged and moved the audience. The design team of Charles Dean Packard (scenic), Richard Devin (lighting), and Jason Ducat (sound) did a fantastic job of transporting us back to a home of the 1960’s. Because of the great staircase that dominated the stage, you really did feel that you were in their basement. Costume Design Kevin Brainerd did a superb job of keeping all of the actors in the style of the 60/70s from party to formal and everyday wear. Props Design Dylan Sprague deserves mad props for his props design and his attention to detail was terrific. I was in wonder on where and how he found all of those period pieces that were absolutely perfect and truly brought the set design to completion.

Once again Curious Theatre does what they do best – produce a compelling script with an exceptional ensemble in a thought-provoking production that engages audiences into a conversation. You may laugh, you may cry but as is the tradition and pride with every Curious Theatre production – you will feel!

Be transported into the story with DETROIT ‘67 at Curious Theatre now through February 24th. For tickets or more information contact the box office by calling 303-623-0524 or online at www.curioustheatre.org. Curious Theatre is located at 1080 Acoma Street in Denver.

PHOTO CREDIT:  Michael Ensminger

 

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