David Schwimmer and Amy Ryan Ponder the Importance of Friends in Lisa D'Amour's Detroit

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26 Aug 2012

Amy Ryan and David Schwimmer
Amy Ryan and David Schwimmer
Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Former "Friends" star David Schwimmer teams up with Amy Ryan for Playwrights Horizons' production of Detroit, about neighbors in an age of isolation.


There are friends, and there are neighbors — but they don't always come in the same affable package, as David Schwimmer can readily attest these days while toiling over Detroit. Lisa D'Amour's new play — a Pulitzer Prize finalist — is running at Playwrights Horizons.

One of the world's better-known "Friends" — thanks to the decade of primetime he put in on the TV series by that name — Schwimmer has reached a point, and a play, in his career where his character can matter-of-factly admit, "We don't have any friends."

What "we" — Ben and his wife Mary (Amy Ryan) — do have are neighbors: Kenny (Darren Pettie) and Sharon (Sarah Sokolvic), a pair of sexy young recovering addicts on a fresh stretch of hope that long ago burnt out for the older pair.

"John Cullum has this great speech at the end of the play," Schwimmer is quick to note. "He's the owner of the house next door to where we live, and he talks about how the neighborhood's changed. We get a sense of history through his presence.

"The recurring theme of the play is: What is a neighbor these days? Do you really have neighbors? Who are they to you? And what is the difference between a friend and a neighbor? It certainly seems — at least in this play — that our characters admit they don't have any friends and they don't even seem to know their neighbors. That kind of isolation, even within a community, is, I think, a natural byproduct of today."

In these tough financial times, Ben could be the rusting residue of Schwimmer's romantic Ross Geller, moved from NYC to the "first ring" suburb of a mid-sized U.S. city. A freshly fired bank loan officer, he's economically discarded, maritally numb and trying not to look like a deadbeat as he fumbles a financial website into existence. Mary, a paralegal and resentful breadwinner, tries vodka — a lot — for what ails her.

"We've got enough in the bank saved to give us, we think, a shot at configuring," explains Schwimmer, "but I think we're both highly aware that we've got about four months before things are really going to have to change in the way that we live.


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