WHITE GUY ON THE BUS. Written by Bruce Graham; directed by Chip Walton. Produced by Curious Theatre Company (1080 Acoma St., Denver) through June 24. Tickets available at 303-623-0524 or curioustheatre.org.
On a recent NPR broadcast, Howie Movshovitz reviewed a movie now showing called THE LOBSTER. In his comments, he observed that audiences have gotten so knowledgeable about the patterns and traditions of movie scriptwriting that they can usually predict after the first ten minutes what is going to happen before the movie ends. He was pleased that THE LOBSTER offered audiences something new, unique and surprising. That same night, I saw this production of WHITE GUY ON THE BUS and experienced the same sensation.
Graham has taken the traditional “safe path” and turned it on its head. His protagonist proves himself to be the most surprising character in decades to slowly unveil his motives and true self. White guy on a bus full of African-Americans—bound to be a powder keg, right? Wrong. Ray is a nice guy doing nice things for one of the passengers. First, we are surprised to learn what has happened to his family, and second, we are shocked to learn why he has become the lone white guy on the bus. This script takes directions that are totally unexpected. What a refreshing experience to see such an unpredictable show. No spoilers here, but this is one that will stay with you for a long time.
It’s also done so well. Jada Dixon as Shatique, the down-to-earth, hard-working student/mother/sister, is put into an impossible situation. Her dilemma makes you weep for both the “hard place” and the “rock” solutions. No easy answers present themselves. Jada as an actress feels every agonizing moment of her decisions; she was still weeping genuine tears at the curtain call. Rachel Bouchard and Andy Waldschmidt as a young to-be-married couple, Molly and Christopher, epitomize Middle America—full of high-minded ideals until it comes down to their own personal lives and choices. Dee Covington is Roz, the self-sacrificing teacher in an urban school, doing her best to make a difference but with a realistic attitude about how much difference is actually happening.
The evening, however, belongs to Sam Gregory. His Ray is a loving husband, a true friend, resourceful, successful and intelligent. His resourcefulness and intelligence serve his determination and deviousness well in the plot that develops. He falls into the “white guy” trap of believing anything can be bought and the consequences do not matter if they do not impact you directly. The dark side beckons and he cannot resist.
Technically speaking, the team does it again. Michael Duran’s set, Shannon McKinney’s lighting and Jason Ducat’s sound, with the help of costumes by Markas Henry and props by Kristin MacFarlane, all provide the perfect nest for this story. Simple chairs with the well-known upholstery of RTDs everywhere become the bus. Various rooms in Roz and Ray’s house are created with modern furniture arrangements; Shatique’s kitchen has a well-worn wooden table and chairs. All of this allows the concentration to be put on the story being told with no distractions.
I wish I could tell you more, but I really want you to go see for yourself as this episode of American life unfolds. You will form your own opinions about who was right and what was wrong, but you won’t forget.
WOW factor: 9.5