Photo by David A. Lee
By Jack Lyons Theatre and Film Critic. Member of American Theatre Critics Association

The last great hope for humanity to survive its innate folly has been The United States of America.  We created a system of government two hundred and forty years ago the world has come to know as American democracy.  Here the people governed themselves – in a manner of speaking – with a Constitution that guarantees that all citizens are equal under the law. The challenge over the years of our existence has been for some people to accept that precept.

The award-winning Palm Springs-based Dezart Performs theatre company is currently staging a powerful drama that addresses what some have called America’s “original sin of Slavery” that has morphed into what is now referred to as America’s racial divide.  And that is only the “Black/White “issue” plaguing our society. We have always been a nation with multicultural immigrant roots.  There is strength in our diversity.

“White Guy on the Bus,” written by Bruce Graham, is deftly directed by Michael Shaw.  It’s is a play about power and revenge that attempts to pierce the veil of institutionalized racism in an effort shock our society into asking all of us to appeal to our better angels, which by the way, is long, long overdue.

The story in short, is set in the upscale Main Line section of Philadelphia and on a city public bus that centers around two couples: Ray, a wealthy businessman (a flat-out sensational performance by David Youse) and his wife Roz (Alexana Thomas) a lady who tells it as she sees and lives it, is strongly played by Ms. Thomas.  Desiree Clarke plays Shatique, the African-American girl on the bus who Ray befriends as they ride to work every morning. Ms. Clarke delivers a finely nuanced dramatic performance (patrons may recall seeing her in comedy roles at Dezart). Sean Timothy Brown, as Ray’s surrogate son Christopher and Bianca Stoker as Christopher’s wife Molly, bring the younger people’s point of view to this intentionally dark production.

Playwright Graham doesn’t sugarcoat his drama’s language.  It’s raw at times, but the issues are compelling and deserving of the audiences’ attention.  However, there will be no spoiler alerts from me here.  To do so, would diminish the effect of Mr. Graham,s tautly written and professionally performed play. One will simply have to come and see it for one’s self and ponder our options as a society.

The talented cast delivers Graham’s searing and compelling dialogue, and they do it in spades both in ensemble and in individual performance format moments.  Shaw’s staging is nicely done.  The story requires the touch of a director who also is an actor.  That’s always a plus when a theatre company like Dezart Performs has a creative artist within the company on whom they can rely.

In the technical department, the creative team led by director Shaw includes Set Design by Thomas L. Valach; Lighting Design by Matthew Garrett; Costumes created by Frank Cazares and Sound Design by Clark Dugger complete the creative team.  Kirsten Cunningham stage manages the production. 

“White Guy on the Bus” is an impressive and resonating stage production that performs at the Palm Springs Woman’s Club on the Pearl McManus stage and runs through March 10, 2019.