Written by Ben Holbrook
Directed by Phoebe Padget
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited
Normally long bus rides usually do not cause much discomfort, taking the stress out of driving, providing some time to catch up on your latest read, or having a relaxing conversation with your travel mate to pass the time. Often the traveler can meet a stranger, strike up a conversation, share some snacks, and learn secrets about them and quite a bit about one’s self. The audience grabs a seat on this particular late night bus ride through the misty swamps of Alabama, becoming involved in a tension filled, roller coaster ride that is difficult to escape at the next stop either because of fear or just plain curiosity as to what will happen. Such is the story that unfolds in a new play by Ben Holbrook entitled “Sinners on a Southbound Bus” being presented by Ruddy Productions as part of the N.Y. International Fringe Festival.
At the beginning of the bus trip there is an odd pair of young men seated together. A small framed Silas played by Nabil Traboulsi with a somewhat streetwise, southern intellect and a larger, taller, unsophisticated companion Morgan, portrayed by Michael Coppola with vulnerability, sensitivity and a heart big enough to share his stash of RC Cola and Moon Pies with fellow passengers. The recipient of these tasty offerings is the more refined Trudy (Katie Healy), exhibiting a mischievous quality, fearful and fearless, experiencing moral ambiguity, as simple to understand as the layers of the moon pies she cannot resist as part of her southern childhood upbringing. They are joined by Bible-wielding Delta played with God fearing tenacity by Renette Oracien, two other passengers (Adam Towers and Ashley Versher), the bus driver (David Bell), and officer Triplett (Scott Brieden).
To divulge any part of the play would be a major spoiler alert. What can be said is that it is an intriguing story, told in a way that raises many questions, is relevant in today’s social climate and leaves the audience thinking. The cast is fine, defining characters and playing into the ambiguity of the situation. One problem is the southern accents, although providing a sense of Southern Gothic, they are inconsistent and difficult to understand, taking away from the energy and tension of the production. The script can be revised, shortened to quicken the pace, or lengthened to flesh out the characters. There is plenty of opportunity to increase the dramatic arc. As it stands now it is certainly worthy of a look and a good conversation builder over after theater drinks.