This story begins with a backyard barbecue. Homeowners Ben and Mary have invited their new neighborsover for grilled meat and beer. Small talk about jobs eventually leads to Ben’s admission that he’s been laid off from his job as a loan officer at a bank.
Ben: “I got a halfway decent severance package, and I can collect unemployment. So I’m going to start my own business.”
Mary: “He’s home a-l-l d-a-y!”
Mary is worried. Ben has no clients, and spends all day trying to set up a website for his new venture. Then comes a bombshell from their new neighbors… – they announce they’ve just completed a rehab program for substance abuse, and started new minimum wage jobs.
A second unsettling surprise comes a few days later when Ben and Mary visit the couple’s house. There’s no kitchen table, no sofa.
Ben: “They said they have no furniture.”
Mary: “Yes, but NO furniture?”
Ben: “They’re starting from scratch.”
Mary: “Ben, there’s a bad carpet smell, a sick carpet smell. In the bedroom.”
Ben: “Wait, you went into their bedroom?”
Mary: “They don’t even have a bed, they just have a mattress on the floor, sheets hanging off of it.”
The Great Recession pushed many people to the brink – and wild partying is not advisable for people living on the edge. But temptation gets the better of this foursome, and they launch a boozy bacchanal that would please Dionysus – the Greek god of wine, madness and ecstatic dancing.
Still, “Detroit” is a contemporary American play about ordinary people in a bland suburb. I wouldn’t have minded if the playwright had managed to imply a sense of greater depth as events spin out of control. But these characters aren’t much interested in history, or their own fate. They just want to party in the back yard like there’s no tomorrow. And you could say they get their wish.
“Detroit” continues at the B Street Theatre in Sacramento through November 17, 2013.