The year is 2008 and for factory workers at the last automobile stamping plant in Detroit, it is not a good time.
The Great Recession has just started and these people must decide what they're going to do with the rest of their lives if the factory closes. As Alley Company Member David Rainey, who plays the plant foreman in Skeleton Crew by playwright Dominique Morisseau soon to be seen at the Alley Theatre says, "The added pressure with those jobs closing is that those jobs just go away. It's not like they can easily go to get a job at another factory."
Rainey plays Reggie, a mid-level manager who's worked hard to get into this supervisory position but now is torn between the wishes of his supervisors who want to keep quiet the news of any possible shutdown as long as possible and the workers who know something is up and are scared about their jobs and their futures.
"He's trying to protect his position, his family, his job and his reputation as a manager and at the same time is trying to protect the people who stand to lose the most which are the workers," Rainey says. "He's kind of getting it from all sides. Mistrust and the pressures.
"I mean at one point he says 'How can take a stand without jumping on a grenade?'"
Reggie's closest friend on the job is Faye, a long time employee who was his mother's friend. "She's the rock of this company. She takes no bull from anybody. She's sort of the queen bee. She kind of helped Reggie get his position here and work up the ladder."
Then there's Dez, who's more of a young firebrand, and Shanita, young, pregnant and a single mother who's working doubletime depending on this job to pay the bills for herself and her upcoming child. "She's a very hard worker. She's someone who takes extreme pride in being at the factory."
"These are very very colorful people. I'd say Reggie, my character is the most bland because he's trying so hard to be management," Rainey says. "He's sort of playing an idea of manager. He doesn't really know how to be a manager. He's trying really hard to play the role, to dress the part, to do everything the right way," Rainey says.
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Taibi Magar is directing the four-member cast in the two act play. "The play deals with a lot of issues of family and loyalty and even right and wrong. What is right and wrong when you're faced with a situation that will benefit the corporation but the corporation is trying to screw you over. What is the right thing to do?"
By not confirming the rumors, the plant management is cutting down the amount of time the workers have to protect themselves by seeking other jobs with benefits.
"It's such a human drama. Such a human dilemma," he says. "I don't think there's anybody who would come see this play and not identify with these people, and not identify with their situation and not understand the pressure cooker that they're under. Because we all have jobs. We all have families. We all have people that we're trying to protect. I think it's a very, very universal play."
Performances of Skeleton Crew are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and Sundays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at Alley Theatre, 615 Texas. For information, call 713-220-5700 or visit alleytheatre.org. $45-$50.