Deadline Detroit | Dominique Morisseau, ‘the Bard of Detroit’, deserves praise for ‘Skeleton Crew’, his 2nd Broadway play

Detroit’s best-known playwright scores again on Broadway. Three years after critical acclaim for a Temptations musical titled “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” Dominique Morisseau is getting strong reviews for “Skeleton Crew.”

The drama about workers at the Detroit sheet metal stamping plant bracing for a plant shutdown and job loss is an example of “classic craftsmanship,” says The New York Times. Vulture calls Morisseau “the modern bard of Detroit”.

“Thank you for showing up for me, time and time again,” the (white shirt) playwright told Detroiters after Friday’s show. (Photo: Jalen Rose/Twitter)

The play was at the Detroit Public Theater for four weeks in the fall of 2017. The higher-budget version in New York hosted a “Detroit Night” Friday that drew Mayor Mike Duggan, education entrepreneur Jalen Rose, l author Michael Eric Dyson, actor S. Epatha Merkerson and hundreds of other fans in the playwright’s hometown, a girl from the Six Mile-Livernois area.

Detroit Free Press arts and culture writer Duante Beddingfield had a seat and wrote on Sunday:

The almost all-black audience braced themselves for a good time, reacting strongly to every twist and punch. The actors often had to hold out long, raspy laughs and wildly enthusiastic applause.

He quotes the mayor saying, “What’s really special about our city is that when someone in our city succeeds, everyone in Detroit feels proud.”

Director [Ruben] Santiago-Hudson spent formative years in Detroit as a young man. After a standing ovation for the cast of “Skeleton Crew” at the end of the play, the Wayne State University alum took the stage to join Motor City in the celebration. …

“I absorbed… the loving embrace of Detroit. I don’t know if I learned anything about Shakespeare, but I learned a lot about the pride of my people.”

Morisseau, who turns 44 next month, graduated from Cass Tech High School in 1996 and from the University of Michigan four years later. She won a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” of $625,000 in 2018.

“Detroit’s modern-day bard”, as the Vulture reviewer calls her. (Photo: Kareem Black, Manhattan Theater Club)

A road company brings him “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” at the Fisher Theater in August. (Single tickets will go on sale on a spring date to be announced.)

Below are excerpts from reviews of “Skeleton Crew,” which premiered on January 18 and is set to run through February 20. A minute and a half video conversation between the playwright and the director ends.

Skillful writing: “It’s so deftly constructed and written…that one hardly has time to decide, until its full two hours are up, whether it’s a comedy or a tragedy. Even then, as in life, you may not know for sure.” –Jesse Green, The New York Times

‘Moving Drama:’ “Dominique Morisseau knows what she is doing. … She writes this moving drama with immaculate delicacy and develops her characters with rigor and tact. …
“Like the production line, each moment is thoughtfully planned and carefully assembled. Its characters move sequentially along a line that ultimately brings life and nuance to working-class people often portrayed as one-dimensional.” — Ayanna Prescod, Variety

Proud characters: “Morisseau’s characters take pride in their work and believe in workers’ rights, which sounds like a Clifford Odets play from the Great Depression.” — Robert Hoffler, The Envelope

‘Shiny:’ “Morriseau has created a brilliant, modern work tragedy, masterfully suited to how the American Dream has sleepwalked us all.” — Juan A. Ramirez, theatrical

“Modern Detroit Bard:” “Nearly every beat of the drama deals with some concealment. … That ‘more is hidden than shown’ quality pervades every part of Morisseau’s script. … As a storytelling engine, ‘Skeleton Crew’ glides along , with complications perfectly inserted. into the revelations and poetry of a workman who lubricates the action. … Morisseau is Detroit’s modern bard. — Helen Shaw, Vulture

Skillful: “When you have Dominique Morisseau as your playwright, the factory doesn’t just come to life, it literally dances. … What Morisseau does skillfully with ‘Skeleton Crew’ is create a portrait of the lower working class that is not dark, hopeless or condescending..” — Diet Tran, New York Theater Guide

‘Passionate Lawyer:’ “When it comes to all things Motor City, there is no better historian – or more passionate advocate – than playwright Dominique Morisseau.” — Melissa Rose Bernardo, New York Stage Review

“Streetwise and lyrical:” “The scenario [is] full of dialogue that is both streetwise and lyrical.” — Jonathan Mandell, New York Theatre:

‘Hard as a factory foreman:’ “Morisseau didn’t concoct a sentimental booster shot. ‘Skeleton Crew’ can be tough as a factory foreman. … We come to the end with hope, not assurance.” — Greg Evans, Deadline (not related to us)

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