The Short Bus | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Short Bus 

The Short Bus, at Voltaire. In another century he might have been Tom Sawyer. But the boy who rides the special-school van in Jamie Dunlavey's one-man show The Short Bus has the misfortune to be young, bright, and incorrigible in the mid-70s: his "behavioral disability" condemns him to a series of "progressive" educational programs in the company of assorted misfits, some pathetic and some criminal. Rescue comes in the form of a scholarship to a prestigious private school, from whose squeaky-clean halls he emerges to become a role model for another generation of disenfranchised adolescents.

Dunlavey relies heavily on personal reminiscences, sometimes losing his audience in a chronological and genealogical maze, as he does by his casual use of clinical jargon (he assumes we know what "acting out" means but not a Rorschach test). Some judicious editing could have eliminated these problems, but more crippling is the nostalgic fuzziness that allows Dunlavey to dismiss antisocial impulses as innocent mischief, to ignore the grant-grabbing factor in "experimental" class enrollments, and to deny the hypocrisy of lamenting--from the safety of his own newfound respectability--the loss of destructive "youthful energies." Screwing up is not the first step to salvation, and to romanticize it as such is to offer yet another juvenile excuse for irresponsibility. As a performer Dunlavey radiates boyish charm, but not enough of it to conceal the bullshit. --Mary Shen Barnidge

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