“Detroit” Handles Tough Issues: Director Chuck Erven on FCC play


Photo by: Patrick Forrest

Felicia Sanchez, Michael Breaud, Steve Weatherbee and Sabrina Lopez sitting around a table in the Fresno City College Theatre during a dress rehearsal for the play "Detroit" opening Friday October 2, 2015.

Q.What is Detroit about?

A.“Detroit” is often referred to a comic drama; it works on the level of a comedy and the level of a drama. There are lots of things that are very funny with it and some issues with it, although it is not an issue play.

It has a lot of serious moment with the characters; it basically is a play that takes place in suburbia. It doesn’t necessarily take place in Detroit; it’s just called Detroit because that’s the city that was devastated by the recession big time, so the play is about these characters who are grappling with upheaval [the recession] in 2008 and 2009. So it could take place in any suburban city; it could really have taken place in Fresno in many ways.
It’s about two couples who seem to be very dissimilar from each other. [One of the couples] seems to be a little bit more together; they have jobs, own a house; they seem to be together. There’s another couple who moved in next door to what they thought was an abandoned house, but they moved in, and they are completely different from [the neighbors] .
We find out they were in rehab, and they have all these issues going on, and they just seem very dissimilar to each other. But as the play goes on, you find out in many ways they are very similar to each other. They begin to affect each other. One couple is kind of wild, and the other is sort of conservative, and they begin to change each other and affect each other in unpredictable ways. It’s often called hyper realism for very realistic plays. It takes place in front yards and backyards of the two houses. It’s almost like a sitcom.

Q.Why was this play chosen?

A.It was one of the best scripts to come out in a while. We had students we knew could do the show. [The play] was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, one of the best plays in 2012, listed as one of the top three plays in the country that year. Won all sorts of awards. It has a lot to say about what’s going on in the country and in Fresno in terms of people dealing with economic situations and jobs being lost and how you deal with that, how you try not to be frightened by it, but in fact it’s very frightening. They’re very real issues that connect to people. When people see this play, they’ll be like, ‘Oh, I know those people; I’ve been in that situation; my parents were in that situation.’

Q.Will we be seeing any new and returning faces?

A.There are people that have been in a number of shows, and there are some people that are new. We have cast members who have been in four to five plays here and elsewhere; one who was in “Avenue Q”. there will be a number of new faces too. Each cast gets four performances; we’re running a total of eight performances.