Posts Tagged ‘skeleton crew’

Skeleton Crew
by Dominique Morisseau
Directed by Geovonday Jones
The Black Rep
March 31, 2023

Brian McKinley, Velma Austin
Photo by Phillip Hamer
The Black Rep

The Black Rep is known for consistent excellence in theatre, both in terms of acting and production values. Their recent multiple wins at the 2023 St. Louis Theater Circle Awards are testimony to their celebrated record of accomplishments. Their latest show, Dominique Morisseau’s Skeleton Crew, currently running at COCA’s Berges Theatre, is an intense human drama that lives up to the company’s first-rate reputation, both in the acting and technical areas.

The play features a small cast, telling the story of workers at an automotive stamping plant in Detroit in the first decade of the 21st Century. Factory closures are happening all around them, and the workers here are worried that their factory will be next. The workforce has already been reduced, and the employees are struggling to meet demands. Long-time worker and union representative Faye (Velma Austin) deals with a dilemma as foreman Reggie (Brian McKinley)–who she originally helped get hired–entrusts her with news that threatens to disrupt the already tense situation at work. Fellow workers Dez (Olajuwon Davis) and Shanita (Carmia Imani) are also wondering about why Faye has suddenly started hanging around the factory more than usual, and everyone is concerned about a string of thefts at the factory. As the tensions build, the characters are forced to examine their own hopes, dreams, and plans along with the various personal conflicts. The dialogue is insightful and realistic, and the characters are well-drawn and well-rounded, each with strengths and flaws. It’s a compelling look at the real struggle of factory workers in the once-thriving US auto industry.

Austin, in an excellent performance as Faye, is the anchor of an especially strong cast with no weak links. Austin’s Faye is complex and compelling, and her relationships with her co-workers are thoroughly believable. Her scenes with McKinley’s conflicted Reggie are especially convincing. Imani, as the earnest, pregnant Shanita, is also excellent, as is Davis as the stubborn, secretive Dez, who has an attraction for Shanita and a strong suspicion of Reggie. The conversations and conflicts here seem organic and realistic, and the ensemble chemistry and energy add much to that sense of credibility. 

Technically, the show impresses to the point where the scene is set so well that it’s not always entirely clear what’s real and what is a projection. The vivid set and video design by Margery and Peter Spack puts the factory setting on stage in a detailed, thoroughly impressive manner. Jayson Lawshee’s lighting adds atmosphere to the setting, as well, as does Lamar Harris’s sound design. The costumes, by Marissa Perry, are well-suited to the characters and lend credibility to the time and place of the story. The whole production fits well into the space at the Berges Theatre.

Overall, Skeleton Crew is a compelling, meticulously scripted, smartly directed and impeccably acted piece that brings the audience into the world of its characters with veracity and intensity. It provides much to think about, and characters that embody the story in a remarkably realistic way. It’s another excellent production from the Black Rep.

Carmia Imani, Brian McKinley, Velma Austin, Olajuwan Davis
Photo by Phillip Hamer
The Black Rep

The Black Rep is presenting Skeleton Crew at COCA’s Catherine B. Berges Theatre until April 16, 2023

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