Sister and brother Chelle and Lank have inherited their deceased parents' home and a little money. With the help of their friends Bunny and Sly, they've turned the basement into an occasional dance club, to enjoy music with their friends and make a little money to help with Chelle's son's education. The widowed Chelle is happy with the simple life, keeping a nice home and making some extra money to send to her son, but Lank longs for something more. When Sly asks him to go in with him to invest in a local bar, Lank jumps at the chance despite his sister's objections. While out one night, Sly and Lank come across a mysterious and injured young white woman and bring her back to the house to recover. Chelle is not happy with this, knowing the trouble it could bring in segregated Detroit, but reluctantly agrees to let the girl stay if she helps around the house. She has a past that, when she reveals it to Lank, bonds the two of them. When the riots start, Lank and Sly are right in the middle of it, trying to protect their new business. It doesn't end well, but no matter what happens, the music lives on. And so do these people, as best they can.
|Chelle and Sly (Austene Van and James T. Alfred) dance as|
Caroline (Elizabeth Efteland) looks on (photo by Bridget Bennett)
|another dancing couple: Bunny and Lank (Jamecia Bennett|
and Darius Dotch, photo by Bridget Bennett)
Penumbra always does top quality work, and often educates me about parts of our history of which I am unaware, like the 1967 Detroit riots. It's one of my favorite things about theater - a chance to be entertained while also learning something new, empathizing with characters, and pondering what it all means and how it relates to the world (black men being killed by cops is sadly not a relic of the past). Detroit '67 continues at St. Paul's Penumbra Theatre through May 17.