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A CurtainUp NJ Review
Skeleton Crew
How you figure you irreplaceable? I been from stamping doors to installing shocks to them seven years I spent sewing interiors. It ain't nobody in this plant more irreplaceable than Faye Davison. — Faye
Patricia R. Floyd as Faye (Photo credit: Mike A. Peters)
It would not be a stretch to say that the accolades that are being awarded to playwright Dominique Morisseau are in part due to the support and subsequent production in 2011 of one of her early plays Follow Me to Nellie's at Premiere Stages.In the years following, Morisseau added to her growing stature with the Obie Award-winning Skeleton Crew , the third play in a major trilogy that included Paradise Blue and Detroit '67.

It isn't surprising that Skeleton Crew is now being produced by regional theaters across the USA and beyond. The one currently being presented at Premiere Stages is terrific on all counts and a rewarding experience especially for the audiences at this theater where its artistic director John Wooten is at the helm.

You don't have to be familiar with the previous plays in the trilogy that provide a historical context to the lives of African Americans in Detroit in a similar manner that the late and great August Wilson did with ten-plays depicting the African American experience in Pittsburgh during the 20th Century. Skeleton Crew also shares the spotlight with Lynn Nottage's more recently acclaimed Sweat for how it also addresses the pains and the plight of America's working class.

If Skeleton Crew doesn't aim for the dramatic peaks that elevated Wilson's writing, her prose is tough, real and without any discursive pretense that might push it beyond the reach or the reality of her play's four very compelling characters. That reach is limited to the harrowing situation which they are confronting within the break room of the city's last standing auto plant. Each vividly realized character, however, becomes heartbreaking and explosive in turn. Set in 2008, the play's crisis turns around hearing news that auto stamping plant is scheduled to close. As splendidly directed by Wooten and also superbly acted, it is easy for us to become emotionally invested in each character.

The venue allows the audience to feel very close to the performers at this theater as the semi-round seating begins at floor level. Patrick Rizzotti's setting of the auto plant's break room, with its row of lockers, a bulletin boards for notices, a refrigerator, sink, small stove, sofa, table and some chairs, makes no bones about it being bleak.

Patricia R. Floyd makes an indelible impression as Faye, the oldest worker and union representative who tries to keep her homelessness a secret but not her life as a Lesbian. Despite losing her home because of her compulsive gambling, Fay is a proud complex character, a cancer survivor who still smokes but is, nevertheless, hoping to get to her 30 year retirement package. Her personal issues don't prevent her from being a stabilizer for the crew with a special connection to Reggie (a shattering performance by Shane Taylor.) Reggie, whose now deceased Mom was Faye's life-partner. Reggie is understandably conflicted as the rules he keeps posting serve to alienate him from the crew.

A terrific Daniel Boisrond is a live wire as Dez, a risk-taker unafraid to jeopardize his job at every turn. He's also fearless in his attraction to the very pretty and pregnant Shanita (Kristen Adele) who loves her work at the factory and the attention she is getting from Dez. We may not be sure what the future holds for these ordinary but extraordinarily defined characters, but Morisseau gives them the toughness and the tenderness to make them appear as real and human as the person sitting next to you.

Editor's Note: To read Curtainup's review of Morisseau's world premieire of Pipeline go here .

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Skeleton Crew by Dominique Morisseau
Directed by John J. Wooten
Set Design: Patrick Rizzoti
Costume Design: Karen Lee Hart
Lighting Design: Brant Thomas Murray
Sound Design: Erik T. Lawson
Production Stage Manager: Dale Smallwood
Running Time: 2 hours 10 minutes including intermission
Premiere Stages in the Zella Fry Theatre at Kean College, 1000 Morris Avenue, Union, N.J.
908 - 737 - 7469 or
Tickets: $30, $20 for seniors, $15 for students
From 07/13/17 Opened 07/14/17 Ends 07/30/17 Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 07/14/17 NJ Theaters
NJ Theatre Alliance
Discount Tix Information

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Skeleton Crew
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