Monday, August 29, 2016

Review: To Sin or Not To Sin

By Michael Block

To start, Ben Holbrook has written a sensational script. Sinners on a Southbound Bus is an example of perfectly dangerous theater. Holbrook's play follows a pair of runaways on a bus as they try to evade the cops. On their journey they meet passengers that force the question of right and wrong. The overlying question is who has the power to decide when it comes to morality. Holbrook's text is biting. Where there's cynicism there's tenacity. He smartly avoids preaching by providing all angles of the conversation with ease. The characters may not be filled with depth but they are engaging.
Even though it's a single scene play, Sinners on a Southbound Bus is a challenge on the stage. Even in minimalism, style is essential. Director Phoebe Padget created the bus through rows of mismatched folding chairs. At first glance, you'd never know it was a bus. This meant Padget had to tell the story through staging. Marrying real movement within the style. Unfortunately it wasn't enough. She made it seem as if these people were stationary. Throwing in some bumps on the road was essential. Helping to show that walking on a moving bus is not that easy was crucial. Additionally, actor David Bell had the hardest job as the bus driver. He truly also had the most important job. Not only did he have to "drive" the bus, he had to drive the style. Unfortunately it didn't happen the way it needed to happen. Yes, the reality of driving includes moments of keeping the wheel in place but to create movement in stillness, it must be overplayed. And by placing him on a dominant corner of the stage, your eye naturally looked toward him.
When it came to acting, this play was dominated by Morgan and Silas played by Michael Coppola and Nabil Traboulsi respectively. It was their story. Coppola had strength yet was held back in clarity with diction issues in accent. Traboulsi was a pent-up ball of anger. And it was exhilarating to watch explode. It’s a shame his character saw an early demise. The hero of the play was Scott Brieden as Officer Triplett. The gag was fun, adding much needed lightness in the play. But Brieden still managed to find variety in similarity.
Sinners on a Southbound Bus is a script to keep an eye on. Ben Holbrook has written a masterpiece. But this production proves that it’s a difficult play to stage.