Race and the Limits of Tolerance

White Guy on the Bus‘ entire cast is four white people and one black woman.

Max Minton’s direction is the imaginative force that brings this Aluminous production of White Guy on the Bus to life. The set design is undeservedly minimal. And yet, without backgrounds or much in the way of props, the audience is free to focus on the careful choreography of the actors, their interactions and movements, and the shifting dynamics of the script itself. But his major accomplishment is in keeping together a narrative coherence as one scene shifts into the next.

In order to convey changes of time and place, the actors, often with the help of stagehands, subtly shift the angle at which they face the audience. The lighting design also locates the actor in the past or present day. In the small theater at The Flight Deck, the actors often come perilously close to the front row. Minton wants the audience to directly engage with the dialogue the characters themselves are having about race, and the limits of their tolerance.

The white guy on the bus is a late middle-aged financial consultant named Ray (Stephen Rexrode). He’s bored with his work but appears to be happily married to Roz (Maureen Williams). They are comfortable enough to retire. At the beginning of the play he insistently asks Roz if they can sell the house and move away from the tedium of his daily life. But she replies matter-of-factly, “I like what I do.” It’s her job as a teacher that’s keeping them stuck in place, but that’s about to change.

Stephen Rexrode as Ray, and Maureen Williams as Roz (Irma Gogashvili)
Stephen Rexrode as Ray, and Maureen Williams as Roz (Irma Gogashvili)

Ray and Roz are a childless couple, which may in part explain her professional devotion. She teaches English at an inner-city school where the mostly black students regularly call her “white bitch.” On the one hand, Roz enjoys helping these kids but she also straddles and sometimes crosses the line of coming across as a racist. Ray doesn’t challenge Roz about her attitudes. Every day he sees her dedication and hard work, but Molly, another teacher, (Briel Pomerantz) only hears the worst.

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