At the start of the Great Recession, rumors of impending closure surround one of the last auto plants in Detroit. The nation’s financial crisis gets personal as each of the workers confronts the life-altering choices they must make if their plant goes under, while the supervisor is torn between allegiances to his makeshift family of co-workers and management’s cost-saving demands. When pushed to the limits of survival, how far over the lines are people willing to cross?
The third play in Dominique Morisseau’s Detroit trilogy, Skeleton Crew was named one of Time Magazine’s 10 Best Shows of the Year.
Photos by Charles Osgood
by Steven Oxman
February 11, 2018
Tale of Detroit failing auto industry unfolds in gripping ‘Skeleton Crew’
It says something about the depth and quality of playwright Dominique Morisseau’s “Skeleton Crew” that it feels at once so period-specific and so current.
It’s Detroit in 2008. The entire American car industry is, or soon will be, under threat of total collapse. The impact already extends far beyond the giant factories of the name-brand manufacturers into smaller providers of various parts.
Morisseau’s characters, particularly in the hands of this superb cast and under the direction of Ron OJ Parson at Northlight Theatre, are utterly believable, and the language, a rich and real urban African-American vernacular, possesses just the right grounded lyricism. It’s worth noting that this version of the play runs nearly a half-hour longer than the New York production. Parson lets silences in, relaxes the playing, letting scenes unfold at a very realistic-style pace. Still, the evening feels taut, never languorous or dull. The relationships among the characters emerge carefully at first, and then with occasional surprises, especially as the rumors about the plant’s closing turn out to be true, forcing Reggie to make hard decisions about how to cull down the already skeleton crew to those who will stay to the end.
While the acting is uniformly excellent, it is the phenomenal Williams and Roston Jr. who, as details unfold and pressure escalates, achieve moments of greatest emotional power as they expose their characters’ unseen weaknesses and deep fears.
by Chris Jones
February 7, 2018
End of the road for a Detroit car plant in moving ‘Skeleton Crew’
No American playwright has risen faster than Dominique Morisseau: She’s now among the most produced names at regional theaters and she’s on her way to Broadway with “Ain’t Too Proud,” a show that aims to do for the Temptations what “Jersey Boys” did for the Four Seasons.
Morisseau’s rise mostly has flowed from what she calls “The Detroit Project,” a three-play cycle made up of “Detroit ’67,” “Paradise Blue” and “Skeleton Crew,” which you currently can see at the Northlight Theatre in Skokie. It’s a shame that all three were not produced by the same theater and presented as a trio — a more modest version of the commitment that the Goodman Theatre made long ago to the works of August Wilson, for whom Pittsburgh functioned very much as Detroit does for Morisseau.
Happily, though, the director Ron OJ Parson pushes back against any nostalgic romanticism and he keeps “Skeleton Crew” sufficiently anarchic and generally on the edge that the personalities of the richly acted characters are able to pop with life.
Williams — whose work has been quite extraordinary, and often sad, around town this past year or two — inhabits the conscience of the play.
by Hedy Weiss
February 6, 2018
This very fine play by Dominique Morisseau, one of the most interesting African-American playwrights around, picks up a century after Henry Ford made Detroit the thriving centerpiece of the U.S. auto industry. In fact, the whole thing is now in steep decline.
The play is set in a small auto manufacturing plant in Detroit where the threat of total closure, the loss of many jobs and carefully planned futures is in play. Rumors of a shutdown have everyone on edge.
The story spins around four characters: The female union rep who is close to retirement but has a serious hidden gambling problem; the pregnant single woman who is a skilled worker; the young firebrand who has a crush on her and is saving money to open his own garage; and the manager of the plant, a father and husband terrified of losing his job.
Directed by Ron OJ Parson, with four stellar performances, it is theatrical realism at its best.
by Rick and Brenda McCain
February 4, 2018
Pushed to the Limits
Playwright Dominique Morisseau who Detroit 67 was the first installment of the trilogy which includes Paradise Blues, called Skeleton Crew, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; the hardest play she has written to date. Skeleton Crew takes us to the assembly line in the Great Recession where people are pushed to the limits of survival as they deal with the bitter truths brought out in the last auto stamping plant in Detroit.
Director Ron OJ Parson brought Dominique Morisseau trilogy to life by giving us an in-depth look of the obscurity of life on the assembly line when troubles hit and how far we are willing to go to become the survivor of the fittest?
All of the actors where outstanding and did an excellent job keeping the audience engaged, however; Jacqueline Williams stole the show with her remarkable performance of Faye. She is witty and thoroughly entertaining. She made you laugh and cry while keeping you engulfed in the story. This play will make you think about the struggles of life and remind you that some of us are genuinely only a paycheck away from being homeless.
Let’s Play “Highly Recommend” that you come out and check this play out “Skeleton Crew” is worth the drive to Northlight Theatre.
Jeff committee, be on the lookout; this needs to be on your list of awards
Bernard is honored to be making his Northlight debut. His Chicago credits include Rooftop in Our Lady of 121st Street with Eclipse Theatre, Young Emile in Man In The Ring at Court Theatre, and a tour of Letters Home with Griffin Theatre. Bernard has performed as Fish at City Theatre in Pittsburgh and The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis in productions of The Royale. He has also appeared as Eddie Greene on this season of Chicago P.D. Bernard is a proud MFA graduate of The Theatre School at DePaul and Morehouse College. You’ll soon be able to catch him in The Goodman Theatre’s production of Father Comes Home From The Wars, by Suzi Lori Parks. His deepest theatre experience was portraying Herald Loomis in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone while at DePaul, but he wouldn’t be where his without the support of his loving mother Nina, father James, and siblings Brandon and Brittany Gilbert. Everything he has he owes to the grace of God. Stay woke and take your time.
Kelvin Roston Jr.
Kelvin Roston Jr is an actor/singer/musician/writer. He was last seen on Northlight’s stage as Reggie in Dominique Morisseau’s Skeleton Crew and before that as Sky in Detroit ’67 by the same playwright. Pre-pandemic, he was last seen in Day of Absence, Congo Square Theatre, and before that as King in King Headley II and Oedipus in Oedipus Rex, Court Theatre. Kelvin is the playwright and performer of Twisted Melodies, a look at mental illness through the eyes of legendary soul singer and musician, Donny Hathaway, which has toured nationally, including a stop at New York’s Apollo Theater. Chicagoland theaters: Congo Square, Court, Paramount, Marriott-Lincolnshire, Goodman, Eta, Writers, Black Ensemble, Timeline, Northlight, Steppenwolf, Pegasus, Chicago’s Children’s Theatre. Regional: The Black Rep (St. Louis, MO), Fulton (Lancaster, PA), New Theatre (Overland Park, KS), MSMT (Brunswick, ME), BCS (Baltimore, MD), Mosaic (WASHINGTON DC), Apollo (New York, NY). International: Orb (Tokyo, Japan), Festival Hall (Osaka, Japan). Television: Chicago Med, Chicago PD, KFC, Instant Care, Ace Hardware. Film: Get a Job, Princess Cyd, Breathing Room. Awards: Jeff Award, 3 BTA Awards, 2 Black Excellence Awards, NAMI Award, Court Theatre’s 2019/20 Nicholas Rudall Classic Artist Award. Kelvin is a proud member of AEA, a Congo Square Ensemble Member, and represented by Paonessa Talent.
Northlight appearances include Skeleton Crew, The Miser, Gee’s Bend, and Po’ Boy Tango. Broadway: Young Man From Atlanta. Off-Broadway: From The Mississippi Delta (Oprah Winfrey co-produced), Talented Tenth, Mill Fire. Select Chicago credits include True West, Familiar, The Christians, Airline Highway, Head of Passes, Brother/Sister Plays (Steppenwolf); Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, Harvey, Man in the Ring, Gem of the Ocean, Fences, Caroline, or Change (Court); The House That Will Not Stand, A Wonder In My Soul (Victory Gardens); Father Comes Home From Wars, Pullman Porter Blues, stop.reset, Camino Real, Trinity River Plays and many more (Goodman). She has worked extensively regionally including tours with the Johannesbug’s Market Theatre and Crowns. TV/Film: The Chi Season 2 as recurring real estate mogul Mrs. Harriet Brown; Turks; recurring on Chicago Fire, PD, and Med; recurring Warden Meyers on Empire; Prison Break; Heartlock; The Break Up; The Lake House. Her many awards/nominations include Jeff, Helen Hayes, BTAA, American Arts Council, Lunt-Fontanne (Shakespeare) Fellow and Excellence in the Arts. Greatest blessing: daughter Kara.
AnJi makes her Northlight debut. Chicago credits include Monticello (Aurora Works Theatre); Great & Terrible Wizard of Oz (House); The Last Wife, Sunset Baby (Timeline); The Project(s), Rent (ATC); Fabulation, or the Re-education of Undine (Pulse Theatre); Forgotten Future Remount (Collaboraction Theatre); Mud, River, Stone (Eclipse Theatre); Ithaka (Infusion Theatre) and Soul Samarai (Infusion Theatre). TV & Film credits: Chicago PD, Empire, Home for the Weekend (Pilot), and Hope Springs Eternal. Represented by Paonessa Talent, AnJi has received 3 BTAA nominations, 1 Jeff nomination and received the BTAA for Best Actress for Timeline’s Sunset Baby. She first gives much praise and honor to her redeemer God Almighty. She extends gratitude to her Mom & Dad, family, Dominique Morisseau, Ron and the cast & crew of Skeleton Crew.
Dominique is the author of The Detroit Project (A 3-‐Play Cycle) which includes the following plays: Skeleton Crew (Atlantic Theater Company), Paradise Blue (Signature Theatre), and Detroit ’67 (Public Theater, Classical Theatre of Harlem and NBT). Additional plays include: Pipeline (Lincoln Center Theatre), Sunset Baby (LAByrinth Theatre); Blood at the Root (National Black Theatre) and Follow Me To Nellie’s (Premiere Stages). She is also the book writer on the new musical Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations (Berkeley Repertory Theatre). Dominique is alumna of The Public Theater Emerging Writer’s Group, Women’s Project Lab, and Lark Playwrights Workshop and has developed work at Sundance Lab and Eugene O’Neil Playwrights Conference. Her work has been commissioned by the Hip Hop Theater Festival, Steppenwolf Theater Company, Women’s Project, South Coast Rep, People’s Light and Theatre, and Oregon Shakespeare Festival/Penumbra Theatre. She recently served as Co‐Producer on the Showtime series “Shameless”. Awards include: Stavis Playwriting Award, NAACP Image Award, Spirit of Detroit Award, Weissberger Award, PoNY Fellowship, Sky-‐Cooper New American Play Prize, TEER Spirit Trailblazer Award, Steinberg Playwright Award, Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama (Detroit ’67), Audelco and OBIE Award (Skeleton Crew).
Ron OJ Parson
Ron is a native of Buffalo, New York and a graduate of the University of Michigan’s professional theatre program. He is the co-founder and former Artistic Director of the Onyx Theatre Ensemble of Chicago, and a co-founder and co-director of Ripe Mango Productions. Ron currently resides in Chicago and is a Resident Artist at the Court Theatre. Since moving to Chicago from New York in 1994, he has worked as both actor and director. Chicago theatres Ron has worked with include The Chicago Theatre Company, Victory Gardens, Goodman, Steppenwolf, Chicago Dramatists, Northlight, Court, Black Ensemble, ETA Creative Arts Foundation, Writers, Congo Square, and Urban Theatre Company. Regional theatres include Virginia Stage, Portland Stage, Studio Arena, Studio, Roundabout, Wilshire, Mechanic, Center Stage, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Milwaukee Rep, St. Louis Black Rep, South Coast Rep, Pasadena Playhouse, Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, Alliance, Signature, and Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada. An accomplished actor, TV and film credits include ER, Early Edition, Turks, American Playhouse, Vamping, Ali, Barbershop 2, Primal Fear, Drop Squad, and most recently, Starz Network’s Boss. Ron is a proud member of AFTRA, SAG, AEA, and SDC.
Off-Broadway credits: Ride the Cyclone (MCC), Othello: The Remix (The Westside Theater). International credits: Shakespeare’s Globe, Unicorn Theater (London) The Market Theater (South Africa), The Neuss (Germany), Gdansk Shakespeare Theater (Poland), The Cultch (Vancouver), DUCTAC Theater (Dubai), Brice Mason Center (New Zealand), and The Edinburgh Festival (Scotland). Regional credits: Chicago Shakespeare, Steppenwolf, Court, Writers, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Asolo Repertory Theater, Signature Theater, Walnut Street Theater, Children’s Theater Company, Utah Shakespeare, Getty Villa Outdoor Theater, Delaware Theatre Company, Paramount, Victory Gardens, Drury Lane, Northlight, American Theater Company, Marriott, Griffin Theater, Windy City Playhouse, Steep Theater, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, Dallas Theatre Center, and Mercury Theater. Mr. Davis is a co-founder of the Chicago based design firm Aether and Nyx and serves as adjunct faculty at Columbia College having received his MFA from Northwestern University. www.scottadamdavis.com
Samantha C Jones
Samantha returns to Northlight after designing for Skeleton Crew. A Chicago based designer, her work has been seen at Court, Lookingglass, Steppenwolf, Chicago Children’s Theatre, TimeLine, American Blues Theatre, Victory Gardens, Writers, Jackalope Theatre, Next, Congo Square Theatre and others. Regionally, she has worked with Triad Stage (Greensboro, NC), Arkansas Shakespeare Festival, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Peninsula Players (Door County, WI), and more. Recently, her work was seen in Court’s production of The Belle of Amherst and can be seen currently in TimeLine’s Boy. Upcoming productions include Victory Garden’sBreach and Court’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.
Northlight Theatre: Bad Dates, Gee’s Bend, Po Boy Tango, Awake and Sing!. Broadway: Therese Raquin (Roundabout Theatre Company). Off-Broadway: Man from Nebraska (2econd Stage Theatre); The Purple Lights of Joppa Illinois, Between Riverside and Crazy (Atlantic Theater Company); The Model Apartment (Primary Stages); Tribes, Mistakes Were Made, and Red Light Winter (Barrow Street Theatre); Stop the Virgens (Karen O at St. Ann’s Warehouse/Sydney Opera House); Ivanov, Three Sisters (CSC); A Minister’s Wife (Lincoln Center Theatre); Adding Machine A Musical (Minetta Lane). International: Homebody/Kabul (National Theatre of Belgrade, Serbia). Awards: Obie, Lortel.
Previous Northlight credits include Shining Lives: A Musical, Gee’s Bend, At Wit’s End, The Last Five Years. Off Broadway credits include Lookingglass Alice at The New Victory Theatre. Regional theatres include Goodman, Steppenwolf, McCarter, Long Wharf, Milwaukee Rep, Court, Hartford Stage, Congo Square, The Alley, American Theatre Company, Chicago Shakespeare, Drury Lane, Lookingglass, Victory Gardens, Meadow Brooke, Northwestern, Notre Dame Summer Shakespeare, Shakespeare On The Green, Oak Park Festival, American Girl Theatre (New York, Chicago), Skylight Opera and Wright State University Theatre. He has recorded, mixed and produced cast albums for eight musicals and over 400 film, TV, DVD and computer game credits worldwide. He has been nominated nine times for a Jeff Award and won four times. His memberships include USA #829, ASCAP and IATSE #2.
Rita is proud to be in her 13th season at Northlight, where she has the stage manager for 35 productions. Other recent projects: The Polar Express train ride, seven seasons of The Christmas Schooner at Mercury Theater, and productions at Victory Gardens, Route 66 Theatre Company, Theatre at the Center, and Northlight’s productions of Chapatti and Stella & Lou in Galway, Ireland. She is the proud wife of actor Tom Hickey and mom to seven-year-old Charlie, and is celebrating her 20th year as a member of Actors’ Equity Association. Thank you for supporting live theatre!
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