UNION, NJ – Premiere Stages, in its quest for new, richly layered plays, is now presenting “Skeleton Crew” by Dominique Morrisseau.
The playwright had her play “Follow Me to Nellie’s” work shopped at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center in Connecticut several years ago. That was followed by s fine production at the Kean University theatre.
“Skeleton Crew” deals with the pared down work force at a factory which may be closing soon in the Detroit area. The plot follows four characters: long time employee Faye (Patricia R. Floyd), Reggie, the manager (Shane Taylor), young and swaggering employee Dez (Daniel Boisrond) and pregnant, fragile Shanita (Kristan Adele).
Rumors are rife that the plant may be closing soon, despite efforts by the union to help workers hold onto their jobs. Rules and policies are rampant, as managers look for ways to streamline the work force. Reggie is particularly troubled because of his relationship with Faye.
When we learn in Act II that Faye is now sleeping in her car, the reality of distressing circumstances strikes home. As she says, you lose your house, you lose your family, you use your job…and what’s left? Faye is determined to work out her problems on her own, despite Reggie’s efforts to help her. But the downward spiral is vividly captured in this production.
There are numerous undercurrents in the connections among the four employees. Reggie and Faye have known each other a long time, as his mother and Faye were good friends. Dez suddenly appears with a gun in his satchel and that raises questions of potential violence. Shanita is having vivid dreams about her pregnancy and the two of them develop a tentative, personal rapport.
Everything in this play is organic and natural. You can readily believe that these four people are doing their best to work hard, keep their jobs and still maintain certain integrity despite an indifferent management and an unknown future.
Sound design by Erik T. Lawson helps mightily with transitions from scene to scene and the rap-like music keeps the energy on high gear. Lighting by Brant Thomas Murray adds to the harsh reality of the break room and the darkened moments when hidden secrets are revealed. Patrick Rizzotti’s set clearly reflects the bare bones employee ‘lounge’ with its make-do furniture and kitchen for coffee and lunch. It all has an authentic feel, even to the brick wall, bulletin board and steel fixtures.
John Wooten has directed an impeccable cast in “Skeleton Crew,” with a clear-eyed look at what it’s like to be living on the edge.
Premiere Stages in located on the campus of Kean University. The play continues through July 30. For tickets, call 908-737-4077 or visit premierestagesatkean.com.
Liz Keill reviews professional theatre in the New Jersey area, ranging from the McCarter Theatre in Princeton to Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn. In addition to writing for Tapinto.net, she does theatre analysis for HometowneTV in Summit. She holds a Bachelor's in Journalism from Penn State and a Master's in Communication from Syracuse University. Liz is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association, which holds seminars at regional theatres across the country as well as in New York City.
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