Photo Credit: Centaur Theatre / Theatre I.N.K.
I just got back literally two seconds ago from seeing the English-language world premiere of Marilyn Perreault’s play Bus Stops at Centaur Theatre, and man, I want to write this now before this show slips away from me.
I should mention I went in with high expectations. It’s unusual for me, but I’m seeing this show toward the end of its run (the last performance is on Sunday), and I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about it since it opened. This production completely blew me away. Like, ejected me from my chair and catapulted me through the roof. I’m just now finding my footing.
I mentioned this show slipping away from me, and that’s the thing. It’s very slippery. It leaves you with a feeling, this creepy, profoundly moving feeling. It’s very, very hard to describe, but I’m going to do my best. Honestly, I wish I could see this show five more times, and then perhaps I could more coherently write about it.
So, the story: a bomb goes off in a bus, killing the driver, a waitress, a nurse, and a student. This is not a spoiler. The story traces the backstories of these characters with the help of the ghost of a teenage girl (the ever-bubbly Victoria Diamond) herself died in that same bus. We follow the coroner (played by the playwright and director, Ms. Perreault) as she attempts to solve the mystery of who detonated the bombs.
It confronts issues of prejudice and islamaphobia, as the main suspect is a Muslim man, the student, carrying a suspicious-looking backpack, violence against women, mental illness, alcoholism, and the news coverage of tragedies. And man, does it do it well. Using unchronological storytelling (a favourite tactic of mine), these ideas are explored separately by the various characters fighting for the spotlight to tell their story to the audience.
Pretty good plot, right? But what truly makes this piece special is its use of movement and music. Certain parts are choreographed and many of the actors are trained acrobats, and they tumble around the bus, reenacting their deaths in slow-motion. They pull themselves up to watch from above, they throw themselves on the ground, they roll and somersault and do handstands, sometimes while eerily dancing to the background music.
ALSO, the use of video. Quite a lot of things were projected onto the walls of the bus, from text messages to headlines to a video captured by a cell phone camera to footage captured live of the actors in the bus and projected for the audience to see. We get this sense of media-overload, and it’s fantastic.
And, and, AND, the actors. Each one of them was so, so great. I felt for all of them, and they perfectly captured these nuanced characters, all flawed, all imperfect, but all with stories to tell. The use of both French and English actors and the bilingualism was perfectly, authentically Montreal, as the play is set in the city and name drops metro stations and squares.
I’m not at all capturing this play the way I want to, both for anyone interested and for myself, because I honestly wish I could see this show again. If you have the time this weekend, I highly, highly recommend it. It’s probably my top play of the year so far.
All in all, wonderful play, AMAZING direction, just all around a gorgeous production. This is something you want to see for yourself.