In honor of Detroit 67’s opening at the Classical Theatre of Harlem tonight.. here is the review I wrote for Broadway Black: Published on March 11, 2013 (After it’s Opening at the Public Theater) :
In the intimate black box that is the Shiva at the Public Theater, the audience is packed and every seat is filled as Neil Patel’s scenic design brings us into Chelle and Lank’s basement. Joe Lewis’ black fist is spray painted on the wall and pictures of Muhammed Ali, Malcolm X and Aretha Franklin just to name a few. Its Summer of 1967 in the Motor City during the time the 12th Street riot broke out. These “race riots” became one of the deadliest and most destructive riots in United States history.
Detroit ’67 was birthed from the Public Theater’s Emerging Writer’s group, a bi-annual program that nurtures the work of new playwrights. Dominique Morriseau brought to life characters who may have been forgotten to the rest of the country, while the ashes of the smoke left behind remain prevalent in Detroit today. Its witty, compassionate and a down right good time at the theater. Upward mobility for this family may not be an easy one but it doesn’t stop Lank (Francois Battiste) from dreaming. Sound a little familiar? You are swept for a second into a Lorraine Hansberry classic in this piece yet Dominique weaves the history of the time along with this notion of dreams, family race and a love for Motown so beautifully. It is quite divine timing that Detroit ’67 officially opens on the exact anniversary of the Broadway premiere of A Raisin in the Sun. 54 years later a young woman from Detroit has dared to dream big.
“Sometimes it’s easy to get distracted by potential outcomes for your work. And then sometimes the ancestors remind you that you are standing somewhere important in history, and it is not your job to sweat over the small trifles. It is your job to continue the work, pick up the torch, and then pass it on. Remembering the book about Madame Lorraine— To Be Young, Gifted, and Black. We will be the same age at the time of her opening on March 11th. And I am blessed to be creating in her aftermath.” – Dominque Morriseau
There is a magnetism in this magnificent cast that made audience members laugh so hard the actors had to wait to keep going, they yell out to the cast when Chelle(Michelle Wilson) took us to church and even cry when we wanted to reach out and touch Sly’s(Brandon Dirden) hand. From the moment Bunny (De’Adre Aziza) steps on the scene you are captivated by this firecracker. She brightens up the basement! Michelle Wilson’s Nuances and Subtleness was beautiful to watch. Detroit 67′ is billed as such below, yet with this description you would have no idea the laughs, cries and hopes you would leave the theater with.
“It’s 1967 in Detroit and Motown music gets the party started. Chelle and her brother Lank transform their basement into an after-hours joint to make ends meet. But when a mysterious woman winds her way into their lives, the siblings clash over much more than family business. As their pent-up feelings erupt, so does their city, and the flames of the ’67 Detroit riots engulf them all.”
Detroit ’67 will play at the Public through March 17th and then make its way uptown to the National Black Theater-Classical Theatre of Harlem from March 23-April 14.
“True romance. True passion. True dreams.” -James Halloway