“Detroit ’67” Theater Review

Once in a while a play comes along that fires on all cylinders and “Detroit ‘67”, currently playing at the Long Beach Playhouse, is absolutely one these gems.

Set in the “Long, Hot Summer” of 1967, the 1967 Detroit riot, also known as the 12th Street Riot and the Detroit Uprising, was the bloodiest of the urban riots in the United States at the time.

The tension and flaring tempers outside the basement doorstep of sibling protagonists Chelle and Lank is only the backdrop to the impasse inside; Lank is a dreamer willing to risk their parent’s inherited savings on starting a bar with his best friend Sly, while Chelle is the more practical of the two who flatly refuses to gamble everything that their parents had worked for.

Rounding out the conflict at home and the neighborhood just beyond the door are Bunny and Sly, charismatic and funny, yet sympathetic when the moment calls for it.

Everything seems to be going according to plan until Lank and Sly take pity on a confused, wounded woman from the street named Caroline and bring her into the basement. The only problem is that Caroline is white, while Chelle, Lank, Sly and Bunny are black and in the urban powder keg of the play’s setting, the potential for an explosion is there.

This offering on the LBP mainstage is magnificent on every score; script, direction, performances, as well as set and sound design. Set against the Motown hits of the day, the era is brought startlingly to life by ace director Robyn Hastings, a Long Beach Playhouse performer in her own right. Ms. Hastings’ interpretation of the excellent text by playwright Dominique Morisseau entertains and enlightens, yet never lectures or proselytizes, which is completely refreshing in this age of hyper-politicized theater.

Whatever your social politics are on the subject of race relations, the work itself presents a very realistic situation that has viewpoints from both sides and lets the audience make up its own mind as to what the real reasons for the bloody events of the civil unrest of 1967 might have been.

Speaking of the audience, it was wonderful to note just how involved the packed house was on opening night; laughing and cheering in all the right places. A crowdpleaser, to be sure.

As Chelle, Alisha Elaine Anderson shone brightly from the moment the lights came up. Her sense of being present in the moment and doing what she could to maintain everything that she’s worked hard for is juxtaposed by her love for her brother Lank and the struggle she faces in not only being his keeper but his biggest cheerleader. It’s a tightrope that she graces and does so with complete aplomb.

Marc Morris as Lank exudes a confidence and charm that commands full attention as he wrestles with his moral compass of doing what’s right versus doing what he wants. It’s all for the greater good as we’re rooting for Lank all the way. Engaging and a joy to watch!

It’s hard to believe that the amazing Cassandra Carter-Williams has been away from the stage for so long as she practically steals every scene that she’s in as Bunny. It’s not just that she has the lion’s share of funny dialogue — she’s simply that electric in her timing and comedic chops. A raised eyebrow and sideways glance is all the audience needed to erupt in howls of laughter and applause. Hope to see her onstage again and soon.

It’s a rare thing to solicit a thunderous ovation for a single entrance in a sharkskin suit but that’s exactly how Jonathan D. Wray did it as he held his own with Bunny for his share of the comedic moments. The perfect safety net as Lank’s best friend, the charisma that Mr. Wray possesses is beautiful stage magic to behold.

Rounding out the talented quartet is the fifth player but by no means a fifth wheel. Allison Lynn Adams as Caroline has the unenviable task of winning the audience over as the “odd man out” by default but manages to do so with an understated performance of a woman who finds herself in a situation completely out of her control in the context of the play. Bearing the burden of the largely unsaid opposing worldview in the work, she makes it happen without being unsympathetic in the least. Well done!

This cast is so good that you should run, not walk to see this incredible work that will entertain, make you feel, and make you think about our shared history in the larger scheme of things.

Kudos to David Scaglione for a terrific set, Miranda Richard for moody lighting that sets the tone and to Jessica Rivera for an extremely moving and effective sound design.

Highly recommended!!!!


By Dominique Morriseau

Playing in the Long Beach Playhouse’s Mainstage Theater

May 18 – June 15, 2024

Directed by Robyn Hastings

Motown music is the soul of the party in 1967 Detroit as Chelle and her brother Lank make ends meet by turning their basement into an after-hours joint. A dreamer, Lank wants to use their inheritance to buy a bar downtown, but Chelle wants the stability the money brings. When a mysterious woman finds her way into their lives, the siblings clash over much more than the family business. As their pent-up feelings erupt, so does their city, and they find themselves caught in the middle of the ’67 Detroit uprising. As tensions explode in the streets, will Chelle and Lank be able to hold onto their fragile family ties and their ever present dreams?




Friday, May 24, 2024, 8pm

Saturday, May 25, 2024, 8pm

Sunday, May 26, 2024, 2pm

Friday, May 31, 2024, 8pm

Saturday, June 1, 2024, 8pm

Sunday, June 2, 2024, 2pm

Friday, June 7, 2024, 8pm

Saturday, June 8, 2024, 8pm

Sunday, June 9, 2024, 2pm

Friday, June 14, 2024, 8pm

Saturday, June 15, 2024, 8pm – Closing Night

Bryan Moore

About Bryan Moore

Theatrical connoisseur, colorful raconteur of some note, sartorial gentleman about town. Coffee's for closers. Fortune favors the bold.
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