Auburn University Theatre takes a journey into dark comedy with its new production, “Detroit.”
Travel to a classic American suburb where an ordinary gathering delves into chaos as the characters discuss economic anxiety, marriage, social climbing and what it means to be an American.
The story follows a married couple named Mary and Ben and their two neighbors, Sharon and Kenny. Ben has recently lost his job as a bank loan officer, Mary has a bit of a drinking problem, and Sharon and Kenny live in a rented house with no furniture.
London Carlisle, who plays Ben, is a senior in performance at Auburn and said that the plot surrounds people that are invited over for a barbecue, and everyone is hiding something.
“It explores the idea of not knowing who your neighbors really are or who your spouse is,” Carlisle said. This show takes the niceties of everyday society that people feel obliged to put forward and removes that barrier to depict what people actually think and feel.
The cast of the show has been rehearsing six nights a week for over four weeks, and they have been getting a feel for these characters as a cast and one-on-one.
“This is a super close-knit cast, so relationships built at rehearsal and time spent relating to each other carried over to the stage,” Carlisle said.
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Having those genuine relationships displayed on stage is an important part of making any show seem realistic.
“Our director would make us sit down and talk about what we cared about and what was important to us, and that energy transferred to the show,” Carlisle said.
Christopher Qualls, the director of the show and Auburn University theater professor, would ask the cast what their favorite movies and favorite actors are. He asked them to think about the qualities that made those performances so intense and energetic.
“We talked a lot about Laura Metcalf who was the original Mary in the show, and she is so intense in her performances and has been a role model for me,” Carlisle said.
When talking about what he relates to with his character, Carlisle said Ben is very passionate but oblivious at times, always searching for the good in people, and he feels a lot like that character.
Kimberly VanderWal, junior in public relations at Auburn, is playing Mary.
“I think I mostly identify with the strange way Mary’s mind works,” VanderWal said. “She’s always saying the most off-the-wall things, not trying to be funny but just being herself with her creative mind.”
Addison Peacock, freshman in theater at Auburn playing Sharon, said she can relate to the character’s quirky awkwardness and endless energy, but it’s also been fun experimenting with some of her more out-there behaviors.
Carter Price, junior in finance at Auburn, is playing Kenny and is excited to portray the multifaceted character.
“I like Kenny’s optimism that, after a rough past, he can get his life together and move on,” Price said.
The characters live in a suburb near a city that is never specified, despite the show being named Detroit. It is important to understand this narrative could take place near any city, so it is more representative of American citizens and issues in general rather than pigeon-holing issues into one area.
“It’s really complex and unlike any other show I’ve seen,” VanderWal said. “It really forces you to think critically and look at the world differently.”
This show covers some serious topics, but it is a comedy.
“What I like about this show is that it is hilarious, but the comedy doesn’t come at the expense of the truth of the show, “ Carlisle said.
“Detroit” premieres on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018, and runs until Oct. 27, 2018. Tickets can be purchased on the Auburn University Theatre website or at the box office before the show. All Auburn University students can get their tickets free of charge.
“People coming into this show will not expect the ending or what it devolves into,” Carlisle said.
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