Entertainment Local

City of Glass Reflected in ‘Detroit’

By Zoe Grams

Aaron Craven, founder of Mitch and Murray Productions, plays Kenny in the upcoming production of Lisa D'Amour's Detroit. (Handout Photo)

Aaron Craven, founder of Mitch and Murray Productions, plays Kenny in the upcoming production of Lisa D'Amour's Detroit. (Handout Photo)

After years of escalating prices and debate, Vancouver’s housing crisis is on everyone’s lips. It looks as much a part of the city as the mountain skyline – at least for now.

Cutting-edge theatre company Mitch and Murray Productions offers a mirror to the issue with their upcoming production of Lisa D’Amour’s Detroit, running from November 4 to 19 at Studio 16.

The Pulitzer-winning play shares two couples’ struggles following the economic crash in their title city in 2008. Ben and Mary are a well-to-do couple grappling to make ends meet. Their new next door neighbours, Sharon and Kenny, are recovering addicts, attempting to get clean despite a rigged system preventing them from changing their fortunes in the city.

“There has been a disappearance of the middle class in Vancouver, and that’s why (Detroit) is so relevant,” explained Aaron Craven, founder of Mitch and Murray Productions who also plays Kenny on stage. “Trying to live beyond your means and trying to survive: it’s a poignant comment on the middle class - especially in (Vancouver), which is being turned into a playground for tourists or investors,”

Catharsis often brings discomfort before relief, and Detroit is no exception.

Craven talks about the work of his favourite filmmaker, Alexander Payne (About Schmidt, The Descendants) where he takes some of his inspiration.

“It’s never a drama or a comedy: it’s always living in the hinterland between the two. That’s the human condition. I love that drama lives right in the middle and you’re never sure whether you’ll laugh or cry.”

“There’ll be terribly uncomfortable moments – there always are in our show,” he continues. “I love pushing the buttons of a crowd in Vancouver,”

“It’s like a standup comedy gig, and you’re not quite sure what’s going to come out of the characters’ mouths. Characters say things that we think but don’t actually say out loud. It’s very liberating.”

Mitch and Murray Productions seems most at home within that discomfort. Named after the never-seen bosses in Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, it echoes the company’s motivation to ensure audiences getting caught up in the story.

“I founded it out of a need to do theatre that I wasn’t seeing in Vancouver, “Craven reminisced. “It’s a very young city, gaining its legs of sophistication – big crowd-pleasers and then the small, independent or experimental theatre. (With us), there’s no tricks, there’s no gimmicks.”

“I think people are craving to not always sit and binge watch Netflix. ‘What would get me out of the house when it’s raining, and I have a glass of wine in hand? What’s going to draw me into a theatre space?’”

Detroit is a succinct answer to that question, so much so that when the company didn’t receive their BC Arts Council financial support, they raised the entire amount required for the show via crowd funding.

It’s a sign that, just as Vancouver requires living spaces for its newer generations, so too there’s room for New York-style theatre that caters to a discerning younger audience. Detroit offers both at a key time in the city’s cultural and civic transformation.

Tickets to Detroit begin at $25 and are available at mitchandmurrayproductions.com.