“Skeleton Crew” Review – A play about Tight Bonds in Tough Times

AnJi White, Bernard Gilbert, Jacqueline Williams and Kelvin Roston, Jr. in Northlight Theatre's "Skeleton Crew" by Dominique Morisseau
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Actor turned playwright Dominique Morisseau’s play “Skeleton Crew”, the third in a series examining issues in her hometown Detroit, is currently in performance at Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, through March 3, 2018. Named by Time Magazine as one of the ten best shows of the year after it’s premiere in 2016, the performance given at Northlight does the piece credit. Set in 2008, before the “Big Three” auto makers were bailed out by the Federal government, this is a bold and angry/funny look inside the employee break room in a small automobile stamping parts plant.

Directed by Ron OJ Parson, “Skeleton Crew” stars 4 fine actors as a quartet of employees facing the shutdown of their place of employment, maybe the end of their friendships, and very possibly the curtailment of their hopes and dreams for the future; each is very much dependent on their paychecks.

Kelvin Roston, Jr., Jaqueline Williams and AnJi White in Northlight Theatre’s “Skeleton Crew”, by Dominique Morrisseau

Bernard Gilbert plays the lovable Dez, a line worker who dreams of starting his own auto-parts business, packs a gun for protection and may be stealing from the plant; he has a crush on his pregnant co-worker, Shanita. AnJi White is the earnest hard-working Shanita, who is dedicated to the job and probably the best worker in the plant. Jaqueline Williams portrays union steward Faye, one year shy of retirement, a tough talker with a heart of pure gold and afflicted with a gambling habit; she needs that 30-year pension. Kelvin Roston Jr. plays frustrated supervisor Reggie; his mom was Faye’s former lover and he feels responsible for Faye and all his workers- he knows the plant is going to close, confides in Faye and the 2 of them keep the secret as long as possible while Reggie tries to cope.

Kudos to the production team of Scott Davis, set design; Samantha C. Jones, costume design; Keith Parham, lighting design; Ray Nardelli, sound design; and Rita Vreeland, stage manager, or creating a funky and realistic ambience. The performance runs 2 and ½  hours including a 15-minute intermission, and is punctuated by bursts of mostly hip-hop/rock, flying sparks and equipment passing overhead on pulleys to separate the many mini-acts.

Kelvin Roston, Jr. and Jaqueline Williams in Northlight Theatre’s production of Dominique Morisseau’s “Skeleton Crew”

As the death knell of the plant approaches, tempers flare, laughter erupts, love surfaces, morals are questioned, and the bonds between the threatened workers, which initially seemed to fray, are pulled tighter and closer.

The single setting never gets boring, because the 4 characters light it up with their shared relationships, hopes and problems. Long before the end of the play, the audience has come to know, respect and care about all of them. Finely written, carefully directed and believably well acted, this is a play about the signal importance of love and work in a tough town during hard times; it can find a place to resonate in everybody.


For information and tickets to all the fine shows at Northlight Theatre, go to the northlight website


All photos by Charles Osgood Photography






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