I was a teenager in 1967, one who paid little attention to events outside her hometown in north Louisiana. To me, Detroit was a faraway place of which I knew little about, except, of course, for the amazing music that was coming from there. I loved all of it; Like my friends at school, I knew the words to all of the songs of Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, The Temptations and The Four Tops. Dancing to these songs on the weekends was a common event.
Somehow, back then, I was only slightly aware of how much the world was changing and of the racial tensions that were disrupting other families and other communities. Somehow, I was only slightly aware of the riots that took place in Detroit in 1967. Thus, I was intrigued when I heard about The Ensemble Theatre of Houston's production of Detroit '67.
The play takes a serious look at the tensions and civil unrest of the time. And, while the actors do their dramatic things on stage, a vibrant soundtrack of Motown hits plays throughout. The pairing heightened my interest; I couldn't wait to see it.
So, tonight I did.
Detroit '67 centers around Chelle and her brother, Lank. Together, they run an after-hours club in the basement of their late parents’ house.
Tensions mount when the siblings discover their dreams have diverged, and each wants something different. How to best use the inheritance they have received from their parents becomes a major point of conflict. And, then, their safety and security are threatened by the arrival of a mysterious outsider, and the city around them erupts in violence.
Though this powerful play is sprinkled generously with moments of fun and good humor, it is also riveting. The play's script was first-rate; the five characters were uniquely well-developed, and the five actors who portrayed them did so masterfully.
In a word, The Ensemble Theatre's production of Detroit '67 was perfection.