By Dominique Morisseau
Directed by Ron OJ Parson
At Northlight Theatre, Skokie
Strength and hope for the future binds a brother-sister during ’67 ‘s The Great Rebellion
Playwright Dominique Morisseau’s first play in her The Detroit Projects trilogy, Detroit ’67 is a glimpse into the world of African-Americans struggling to exist in a violent and changing urban city. We meet Chelle (Tyla Abercrumbie) and her younger brother Lank (Karmal Angelo Bolden) who run a “blind pig” (a non-licensed bar with musical entertainment) in their basement. These private neighborhood establishments were often harassed and shook-down by the mostly white Detroit police.
When Lank and his buddy Sly (Kevin Roston Jr.) decide to buy an established bar from Detroit-fleeing white folks with inherited cash, their entrepreneurial desires become reality. But the cautious Chelle is against the risky venture opting on the side of caution. But when Lank arrives with a new eight-track music player, Chelle realizes that Lank is serious about owning a bar. The generous use of Motown tunes was a plus.
When Lank and Sly find a battered and abused white girl, Caroline (Cassandra Bissell) roaming 12th Street, they take her to the basement blind pig to get her help. Chelle allows Caroline to stay and work for a week as she recovers from her attack. She hides the details of who and why she was attacked. Lank shows his kindness as does Chelle and their neighbor, the irrepressible Bunny (Coco Elysses) cautiously accept Caroline into their little enterprise. The mystery behind Caroline’s story, unfortunately, isn’t too detailed nor resolved
Just as Lank and Sly are about to take ownership of the bar, the race riots fueled by extreme police brutality breakout in Detroit. This event complicates things and threatens all the characters. The hopes and dreams of these kind folks are challenged by outside forces in their urban settings governed by fear and police violence. We see how good folks can get caught up in the trauma of events thus dashing their immediate plans. But, playwright Morisseau’s worthy drama demonstrates that strong folks can rise above their circumstances allowing hope for the future. They will not let hatred and violence make them victims. The choose to persevere and plan to make their hopes into reality.
While I thought the show was a tad under rehearsed, Tyla Abercrumbie and Kamal Angelo Bolden were particularly strong as the sister/brothers. Cocco Elysses was a hoot as the outspoken sensual neighbor. While Detroit ’67 didn’t cover any new grown, it did put a face on how good folks can survive their dire circumstance. We’ll await the other two parts of Morisseau’s Detroit Project trilogy.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: November 15, 2013
For more info checkout the Detroit ’67 page at theatreinchicago.com
At Northlight Theatre, 9501 N. Skokie Blvd., Skokie, IL, call 847-673-6300, www.northlight.org, tickets $25 – $75, Tuesdays at7:30 pm, Wednesdays at 1 & 7:30 pm, Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2:30 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2:30 & 7 pm, running time is 2 hours, 20 minutes with intermission, through December 15, 2013