Detroit ’67 – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

At a certain time, in a certain place, life can be challenging. Take, for example, Detroit, Michigan in the 1960’s. Playwright Dominique Morisseau has set her drama “Detroit ‘67” at that location in that year when the police and the African-American community were set for a conflagration of differences. The Hartford Stage is igniting a firestorm of confrontation until Sunday, March 10 and you are invited to a front row seat to witness the devastating results.

Sister and brother Chelle (Myxolydia Tyler) and Lank (Johnny Ramey) Poindexter are still recovering from the deaths of their parents and deciding how to handle the inheritance they will receive. A widower with one son, Chelle wants the money for Julius to use for his college education and his future. She is stable and conscientious, with her dreams focused on a better life for her son. Lank has vastly different ideas. With his best friend Sly (Will Cobbs), the pair want to buy a local bar, invisioning the “Sly and Lank Feel Good Shack.”

Chelle and Lank have converted their basement (thanks to designer Riccardo Hernandez) into an illegal after hours bar, entertaining the community with a place to go to drink and to dance. When Lank and Sly bring home a sophisticated 8 track tape machine, Chelle is reluctant to replace her photograph record player, even though it skips when she spins 45’s by the Temptations and Marvin Gaye. Change is not what Chelle desires. She continues to resist all of Sly’s attempts to woo her to the dance floor and beyond.

As they argue about the future, with Chelle’s good friend a vivacious and fun loving Bunny (Nyahale Allie) helping keep the peace, Sly and Lank bring home a strange white woman Caroline (Ginna Le Vine) into their lives. They find her wandering the streets, incoherent and injured, and they “rescue” her, bringing her into their lives, much to Chelle’s dismay. Tensions rise, the city threatens to explode. With Caroline’s presence and the prospect of purchasing the bar escalating the mounting chaos.

Jade King Carroll ratchets up the action with this talented and powerful cast as director, until Detroit explodes in race riots that destroy. For tickets ($25 and up),call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at Performances are Tuesday to Thursday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m, and a matinee Wednesday, March 6 at 2 p.m.

Witness the history of Detroit through the eyes of one African-American family fighting to survive in the city they love and call home.