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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
White Guy on the Bus
Are you saying people should have to put up with things they find offensive? — Molly

If they want to live in this country they do. Of course if you want the government to protect you from offensive speech there's some lovely countries in the Middle East — Roz
>White Guy on the Bus
Robert Cuccioli and Danielle Lenee (photo credit: Matt Urban/MobiusNewMedia)
Bruce Graham's intelligent and intense play about the unconscious, sometimes crippling, racism we all apparently harbor — no matter how noble and progressive we might think we are — had its premiere in Chicago in 2015. Numerous regional productions since then included one in Los Angeles that was previously reviewed for CurtainUp ( review). The Delaware Theatre Company production with a terrific cast under the direction of Bud now at 59E59 Theaters. It packs a wallop!

It's probably a good thing that we continue to be shaken up, unsettled and even stunned when issues of race and of privilege continue to surface in our daily lives. One might like to think that many of the issues we face have already been analyzed, dissected and explored to the nth degree, if not to everyone's satisfaction.

The cast is currently headed by Robert Cuccioli who is giving one of the finest and most chilling performances of the season. This, as Ray, the title character. Ray is a wealthy main-line Philadelphian investment banker happily married to Roz (Susan McKey), a dedicated and purposefully tough inner city school teacher.

Following his own personal suffering as a result of a crime, Ray devises a plan to bring his own sense of justice to the now imprisoned perpetrator of the crime. This is what puts him on a bus and into a cynically contrived alliance with Shatique a young black woman (Danielle Lenee) whose brother is serving time in the same jail. She is also struggling to raise her nine year old while pursuing a career in nursing. Cleverly integrated is a plot line that explores the friendly, if sometimes contentious, relationship that Ray and Roz have developed with their younger friends, an aggressively progressive couple Christopher (Jonathan Silver) and Molly (Jessica Bedford) who live in a racially mixed neighborhood.

Christopher is a teacher seeking tenure with his dissertation proposal "Male African-American Images in Television Advertising" and Molly is a liberal-minded teacher in the wealty Bryn Mawr section of Philadelphia.

Graham's play artfully muddies the socio-economic arguments as well the easily recognized posturing of the four privileged white characters. This gives the audience plenty of time to modify or change their own views again and again.

Just when we think we are being swallowed up by polemics, the play takes an unexpected detour into a dark and shocking corner. In turn blistering and bracing, the tautly constructed play becomes dramatically radio-active as Shatique finds herself caught between her contempt for Ray's basically psychopathic proposal and her own sense of integrity.

No one can do a Jekyll and Hyde better than Cuccioli (his Tony-nominated role), and he does it brilliantly by showing us two distinct sides of Ray's personality. There is palpable heartbreak and the outcry of outrage in Lenee's performance as Shatique. Bedford and Silver nail their respective roles as privileged progressives. Paul Tate dePoo III's fine unit multi-location setting is enhanced by Nicholas Hussong's projections.

Don't be afraid to see this blistering play that may actually change your mind as it challenges your well-intentioned motives.

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White Guy on the Bus by Bruce Graham
Directed by Bud Martin
Cast: Robert Cuccioli (Ray), Jessica Bedford (Molly), Danielle Lenee (Shatique), Susan McKey (Roz), Jonathan Silver (Christopher)
Scenic Design: Paul Tate DePoo III
Costume Design: Wade Laboissonniere
Lighting Design: Rob Denton
Sound Design & Original Music: Michael Hahn
Projection Design: Nicholas Hussong
Fight Director: Michael Cosenza
Production Stage Manager: Jason Weixelman
Assistant Stage Manager: Samantha Honeycutt
Running Time: 2 hours including intermission
59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street
(212) 279 - 4200 or visit www.59e59org
Tuesday–Thursday at7PM;Friday at 8PM; Saturday at 2 PM & 8PM;and Sunday at 3 PM& 7PM.
From 03/05/17 Opened 03/14/17 Ends 04/16/17
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 03/16/17

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