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"White Guy on the Bus" assaults political beliefs

No matter what political course you traveled over the last 18 months, Bruce Graham's White Guy on the Bus will knock you off your pins.

No matter what political course you traveled over the last 18 months, Bruce Graham's

White Guy on the Bus

will knock you off your pins.

The show, which premiered in January 2015 at Chicago's Northlight Theatre and is being staged at the Delaware Theatre Company, aims a machine gun of dialogue at the "right to be sensitive" of the politically correct and packs enough real talk into its exposition-heavy dialogue to perhaps cause presidential aide Steve Bannon to blanch a little.

It also excites theatrically, if bending the boundaries of belief a little too far in its attempts at perfect, no-loopholes logical construction. (Unfortunately, an examination here would ruin the two staggering plot twists.)

Graham's titular White Guy (Robert Cuccioli as Ray) shares an immense, if child-free, home on Philadelphia's Main Line. He crunches data for a financial firm that handles old money; his wife, Roz (Susan McKey), works at a North Philadelphia high school, where the honors students (and the principal) routinely denigrate her for being white.

The conversations (and some of the themes) recall the starker moments of Bruce Norris' Clybourne Park; unlike Norris, Graham has very much structured this play in the style of a film (and it would transfer well to that medium).

Flashbacks and vignettes introduce their neighbor's adult son Christopher (Jonathan Silver), who grew up as the de facto ward of Ray and Roz, and Christopher's uber-privileged fiancée, Molly (Jessica Bedford). Christopher plans to write a sociology dissertation on the use of African American images in TV advertisements; Molly serves as a guidance counselor at a private school for (mostly) white daughters of the wealthy.

Their backgrounds bleed into arguments over white wine and Thai food, with Roz delivering a weathered educational-realist approach to Molly's politically correct views on vibrancy.

When a horrible crime occurs, words become deeds, and Ray starts befriending Shatique (the excellent Danielle Leneé), an African American female commuter on his credulity-stretching SEPTA rides.

Nothing else I can say would preserve or prepare you for the throat-punch of a plot that follows. Nor help you navigate the issues raised. Much like the 2004 movie Crash, Graham's play brutally examines contemporary racial and class tensions in America - and this production soars in Bud Martin's unflinching direction. Cuccioli, in particular, shines as he shifts seamlessly from dinner-table peacemaker to revenge-seeking antihero.

Whatever beliefs you sit down with at curtain call, prepare to have them assaulted. Whatever courage you possess, muster it to see this production.

THEATER REVIEW

White Guy

on the Bus

Through Feb. 19 at the Delaware Theatre Company, 200 Water St., Wilmington.

Tickets: $25-$55.

Information: 302-594-1100 or delawaretheatre.org.EndText