Brittany Pierce-Caiazza’s Review of Flint

September 13, 2019

Shadowland Stages

Ellenville

     When I was asked to review Flint by Jeff Daniels, I was super excited because, well, Jeff Daniels. I had only been to one Shadowland production before and it was enjoyable. This is the East Coast premiere of Flint, so that was also exciting. I knew nothing about the show, save that it was set in Flint, Michigan and dealt with both the closing of auto factories and the water disaster (let’s call it what it is). Going in blind was the best thing I could have done.

Flint is described as “a tough and honest portrayal of two couples (one black and one white), neighbors who have seen their lives greatly diminished, 2 ½ years after losing their jobs at the auto plant. Their lives and relationships unravel as they lose their grip on the chance at the American Dream. And it all comes to a head on a Friday evening in September of 2014, six weeks before the State of Michigan announced a problem with the city’s water.” But oh, is it so much more than that. It is unflinching in its reality, its candor, its portrayal of relationships, both between spouses and between friends, and its depiction of the many ways that people cope with setbacks and fight for their survival.

To say that I was astounded by this production would be putting it mildly. When the lights came up after the ninety-minute, no-intermission, performance, my husband and I sat in silence, he’s breathing unsteadily and I am crying. We hurt, we ached, we felt guilty, and we felt love - all jumbled together. There was so much to process and take in that I’m still wrestling with it three days later. This is absolutely a play that people need to see, need to hear, and need to talk about.

The ensemble of four is breathtaking. The relationships they have created are authentic and moving; you never once feel like you are watching actors, but rather that you are peering into an actual kitchen on a typical night. The set is so relatable; this is a kitchen that we have all been in, have all had, and the normalcy of it all counteracts the most intense moments of the play, leaving the audience reeling. The production quality is seamless and professional. And even the attention to detail is spectacular: Mitchell works at Wal-Mart and the orange juice is Great Value. Awesome.

Speaking of Mithcell, Brandon Rubin is superb as a man trying to support his family with a less than minimum wage job with no benefits. He has been through the wringer and has come out the other side. His voice is clear and emotional and you feel like he is your neighbor. One would assume that he would be the dad at the bus stop hugging the kids as they got off the bus, and if you needed one, he would give you one too. He moves through Mitchell’s journey without a hitch, and he is unafraid to ask the questions that are all too often left unasked. As his wife Olivia, Jammie Patton is divine. Truly devout Olivia is, at many times, what many of us strive to be - honest, real, and steadfast in her beliefs. When she speaks, you listen, and there are many times when she is the voice of reason. I never once doubted that this is who she is, and I marvel at the quiet strength that she exudes.

LeAnne Hutchison as Karen is raw and vulnerable, while also being strong. She is able to say everything with a simple hip-switch or head turn. Karen’s character is both a contrast and a mirror to Olivia. Both women are fragile and strong, and doing everything they can for those they love. Shadowland Stages very own Artistic Director, Brendan Burke, appears as Eddie, a proud former line-man for GM. For anyone who has met Burke or even seen him give the opening welcome, this character is completely different. He is unsettlingly convincing in this role, and you love, hate, and pity him. The chemistry between Hutchison and Burke is tumultuous and intense, contrasting fantastically with the loving, sweet, and encouraging chemistry between Rubin and Patton. This ensemble is trusting, confident, and embracing of every aspect of their characters, no matter what is asked of them.

I could continue on and on about Flint; but do yourself a favor and get to Shadowland Stages and experience it for yourself. It will stick with you, leave you needing to talk to someone, and make you want to reevaluate your own beliefs and bias. Beautiful, beautiful work done by all involved.

Flint by Jeff Daniels continues its run at the Shadowland Stages in Ellenville through September 29th. Tickets and information are available at https://shadowlandstages.org/2019-season/flint/ or by calling the Box Office at 845-647-5511.

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