A White Guy on a Bus – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

In the world’s bakery, white bread is a homogenized choice at best. Consider Irish soda bread, Arab pita flatbread, an Italian crusty version, a slice of Jewish seeded rye or a French baguette for your culinary needs. In Bruce Graham’s gutsy and tasty new play “White Guy on a Bus,” the menu is focused on race and class, the white and the black of our society, how we interact and live side by side, the preconceptions that guide us and divide us, and what happens when civilization as we know it explodes.

These difficult issues are being attacked head on by Square One Theatre Company’s stark and raw drama playing weekends until Sunday, March 18 at Stratford Academy, 719 Birdseye Street, Stratford and it will engage you, scare you and leave you thinking hard thoughts about your own ingrained views. Come meet Ray (Bruce Murray), a successful investment banker who is ready for a change, of job, of address, of life style. He has been happily married to Roz (Janet Rathert) for decades, and she is devotedly dedicated to her inner city kids whom she tries to teach and better prepare for the hard life they face.

Residing in a wealthy part of Philadelphia, the pair pride themselves on how civilized and progressive they are. Years before they “adopted” a neighbor boy Christopher (Ian Diedrich) whom they consider like a son and he is now about to marry Molly (Emily Diedrich). Christopher is working on a dissertation about the portrayal of African-Americans in advertising while Molly is a teacher at an affluent academy where the major problems are eating disorders and the best places to go for spring break.

At this moment in time, Ray is ready to run away from their cushy but predictable life and change everything. Roz is waiting to see if she has won a prestigious teaching award. When they visit with Christopher and Molly, they chat about their jobs and the relative merits of what they do and what they hope to accomplish. The question of race and privilege weaves in and out of their conversations.

When Ray starts taking a bus to a local prison, he meets Shatique (Erma Elliott), a young black single mom struggling to raise her nine year old son LeShaun, work, and earn a nursing degree. The contrasts between her life and Ray’s are staggering. Why is Ray on the bus? What is his motivation in gaining Shatique’s friendship? How does the question of racism enter the picture? Is this mild mannered man capable of turning to violence and revenge? Artistic director Tom Holehan steers the action through all the twists and turns a bus makes on its route to its final destination.

For tickets ($20, seniors $19), call Square One Theatre at 203-375-8778 or online at www.SquareOneTheatre.com. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Dinner specials are available at these nearby restaurants: Acapulco’s Mexican Cantina, Blue Sky Diner, Kama Sushi,, Maxwell’s American Grill and Station House Wine Bar & Grill.

Now is the time to make your reservation for Friends of Square One Theatre’s Annual Spring Luncheon, Thursday, April 26 at noon at Mill River Country Club in Stratford. For tickets ($26), call 203-377-0273 or mail to Diane Grace, 1470 MainStreet, Stratford, CT 06615 by April 19. Select your choice of entree Chicken Piccata or Pan Seared Salmon.

Proceeds will benefit the William A. Barry Scholarship Fund awarded to outstanding students in the arts at Stratford and Bunnell High Schools.

Examine your own preconceived notions about how you treat others of diversity as you watch this captivating story of perspectives and prejudices.