Walking the line

‘Skeleton Crew’ champions the resilient human spirit

Celina Colby | 3/1/2018, 6 a.m.
“Skeleton Crew,” debuting at Huntington Theatre Company on March 2, follows four Detroit autoworkers dealing with the fading industry from ...
Toccarra Cash, Maurice E. Parent, Patricia R. Floyd and Jonathan Louis Dent star in “Skeleton Crew,” directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian, playing March 2–31 at South End/Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA. Nile Scott Shots/Nile Hawver

“Skeleton Crew,” debuting at Huntington Theatre Company on March 2, follows four Detroit autoworkers dealing with the fading industry from their break room. Relationships are complicated by rumors of the plant closing, and tension about the future hangs over the characters. The story rings more relevant than ever in a contemporary America facing further outsourcing, racism and uncertainty.

On the web

To learn more about “Skeleton Crew,” visit: www.huntingtontheatre.org/season/2017-2018/skeleton-crew/

On Feb. 23, actors Toccarra Cash, Jonathan Louis Dent, Patricia R. Floyd and Maurice E. Parent and director Megan-Sandberg Zakian sat down to dinner in their own off-duty space, Savvor restaurant on Lincoln Street. “The neighborhood I grew up in has changed quite a bit,” says Floyd. Her childhood home sat between seven mile and eight mile in Detroit.

The four-person, all African American cast alludes to the racial tensions building in the mid-20th century and culminating in the 1967 Detroit riot. The twists and turns of the storyline keep the audience on their toes and the actors feeling fulfilled. “Everybody has a juicy part,” says Floyd. “And it’s something that African American actors don’t get too often, particularly women.”

Zakian says the play is the third-most-produced show in the country this year, and it’s no wonder why. Though the show is thematically heavy, comedy abounds. “The beauty of the play is that there’s so much humor and lightness in it. Because that is how we’ve survived this far. We keep each other going by our relationships,” says Cash. “Life still has to go on even in the face of hate.”

Ultimately, “Skeleton Crew” is about family and fortitude. The point the actors keep coming back to is the resilience of the characters in the play, and of the factory workers in their own lives who suffered equally in the 2008 recession. The “Skeleton Crew” characters are hustlers, and giving up isn’t an option.

This persistence is twofold. As survival becomes the paramount goal for these workers, lines are crossed and moral ground is continuously examined. The rules change when people are fighting to avoid homelessness, fighting for their lives.

The cast members hope audiences leave the theater feeling connected to the characters, feeling joy and thinking more closely about the world around them.

“America better wake up,” says Floyd. “Everybody’s fine with it when it’s Detroit or when it’s Cleveland. This is not a black problem. This is not an inner city problem. This is an American problem. Instead of pointing fingers at each other everybody better start looking up.”