BWW Review: WHITE GUY ON THE BUS at Delaware Theatre Company
Nearing 60 years in theatre as an actor and reviewer of the performing arts, this is an undeniable first. In February, prompted by last week's opening of the searing production of WHITE GUY ON THE BUS, the staff of Delaware Theatre Co. has undertaken professional training in equality, diversity, inclusion and social justice.
The courses examined issues or privilege and diversity with the lens of better providing the staff with necessary tools to run community discussions following every performance.
White people still don't get it. August Wilson and James Baldwin tried to drive home the message. In WHITE GUY, Playwright Bruce Graham (who teaches theatre at Drexel) follows in these august footsteps. Bruce Graham and Bud Martin have worked together previously at DTC in the same capacities with ANY GIVEN MONDAY and THE OUTGOING TIDE.
Director Bud Martin is white. He admits in an op ed column in the statewide newspaper that he is 'able-bodied, Christian, heterosexual, highly educated and privileged". Martin goes on to say that "if it were not for working on this play, at this particular time in history (read Trump), I do not think I would fully understand the power and advantages that my "white privilege" gives me".
Aisle Say urges everyone, not just theatre goers, to read his full message http://www.delawareonline.com/story/opinion/2017/02/02/why-theater-need-now-more-than-ever/97352612/
Lighting Designer Rob Denton did a masterful job in creating scene changes.
Aisle Say's personal resume is not unlike that of Martin (although many will question 'highly educated'). As I quitted the theatre I thought to myself that I do not seek out race-centric productions. It's about time for a wake-up call. This production pulled no punches. There were no shades. It was black and white!
Ray (Robert Cuccioli) and wife Roz (Susan McKey) live on the Main Line. Roz teaches in a North Philly high school. Their initial dialogue was formulaic and I kept wondering to myself, "would man and wife actually speak like that"? Soon, though the plot and intercourse moves to issues of more consequence.
A wealthy investment banker and self-described 'numbers man' Ray rides the bus daily and week after week develops a relationship with a struggling black single mother Statique (Danielle Lenee), who is putting herself through nursing school. From gratuitous generalities, their conversation soon delves into elemental and divisive racial disparities. Each character has Valyrian steel in their spine and suffers not from confrontation. The resolve of the two hardens as days pass into weeks. Example, Ray states that the reason black on black crime is rampant is because "no one gives a shit".
A series of flashbacks move the show forward. The audience becomes easily assimilated and the blistering impact of the plot could not have been told otherwise. Roz tells Ray of her daily trials: "I am called a bitch and a slut by some black students".
Ray: You know the problem with the death penalty?
Shatique: It's given out disproportionately to black people?
Ray: Yep. We target the wrong people and the wrong crimes. If Bernie Madoff had been dragged into Central Park and hung from a tree, there would be no need for the SEC. Wall Street bankers would have been scared shitless.
Roz is murdered at her school. Ray vows revenge, "no one's going to fuck with my family again". Due to his anal 'numbers man' approach, he did background checks and knows that Shatique's brother is in jail. Ray offers her $100,000.00 if she has her brother kill the man that murdered his wife. Shatique is faced with a SOPHIE'S CHOICE.
Renee had played Shatique previously. I leave you with this: at final curtain in front of a Standing audience, there were tears in her eyes. Hers is a gut wrenching role. She feels it throughout every charged fibre in her body. Both she and Cuccioli give strong performances in this lacerating pronouncement on race relations.
WHITE GUY ON THE BUS will move to off-Broadway. It is a very important message to all privileged whities. Oh, excuse me; in this context, that's an oxymoron. It's good for black people as well. With this powerful and brave drama, the latter may get a sense that whitie is finally getting it.
Through Feb 19 DelawareTheatre.org 302.494.1100
Next up: HETTY FEATHER April 19