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Theater Review: 'Detroit' -- 2.5 stars

Darren Pettie, Amy Ryan, David Schwimmer and Sarah

Darren Pettie, Amy Ryan, David Schwimmer and Sarah Sokolovic star in "Detroit." Credit: Darren Pettie, Amy Ryan, David Schwimmer and Sarah Sokolovic star in "Detroit."

2.5 stars

Be very careful the next time you bring over a welcome basket to greet your new neighbors.

In Lisa D'Amour's comedic drama "Detroit," such a seemingly polite action leads to emotional turmoil and physical destruction.

"Detroit," a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, was originally slated to play Broadway after its Chicago premiere. But after a successful London run, it is instead making its New York debut Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons.

Despite its title, the play is not meant to take place literally in Detroit, but rather in the suburbs outside of any modern U.S. city.

It explores the complex relationship between Ben (David Schwimmer) and Mary (Amy Ryan), a seemingly normal married couple, and their new neighbors Kenny (Darren Pettie) and Sharon (Sarah Sokolovic), who met in drug rehab and now have dead-end jobs and inhabit an empty house.

It's revealed that Ben and Mary also have their fair share of problems. Ben was recently laid off from his job at a bank and now stays home all day, supposedly working on a website, while Mary has alcohol problems.

The bulk of the play consists of strange bonding scenes that mostly go nowhere. But during a drunken party, Kenny and Sharon inexplicably burn down Ben and Mary's house and disappear.

As a final coda, an old man (John Cullum) delivers a didactic monologue where he waxes nostalgically about the way the neighborhood used to be while Ben and Mary ponder their future.

While "Detroit" is superficial and often reminiscent of a sitcom, D'Amour raises many provocative questions about feeling isolated, the desire to - and danger of - opening up to strangers, being scared of an uncertain future, the end of the American dream and the temptations of nostalgia.

Anne Kauffman's strong production captures the play's raucous spirit. While Schwimmer highlights his character's spineless personality and fondness for pipe dreams, Ryan presents a raw and compelling portrait of a woman on the verge of desperation.

If you go: "Detroit" plays at Playwrights Horizons through Oct. 7.  416 W. 42nd St., 212-279-4200,

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