Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's reviews of Richard III and Ella Fitzgerald: First Lady of Song
Violet (Erin Driscoll) lives in the mountains of North Carolina in the turbulent year 1964, mostly keeping away from other people. She has a disfigured face, the result of a woodcutting accident when she was 13, and she's tired of avoiding the looks of shock and pity she gets from others. She has saved her money and has decided to travel by bus to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she believes a faith-healing evangelist will restore her face.
Director Jeff Calhoun maintains the (perhaps overly) deliberate pace as Violet makes her journey. She meets two soldiers heading for camp in Arkansas, African-American sergeant Flick (Kevin McAllister) and white corporal Monty (James Gardiner), and they become traveling companions. If the specifics of the story aren't totally obvious, lines like "You'll be changing just by taking this trip" and "You don't have to leave home for a miracle" telegraph the underlying message.
While Driscoll brings Violet to appealing and genuine life, the standout is McAllister, whose impassioned acting and singing (specifically his first-act solo, "Let It Sing") wakes up the stage. The cast also includes some standout performers in small roles, notable Bobby Smith as Violet's father, Lauren Williams as the teenage version of Violet, and Gregory Maheu as the preacher.
Tobin Ost has created a scenic design that does a lot with a little: modular bus seats turn into booths in a diner, for example, and a backdrop scrim both showcases Violet's memories and, thanks to Aaron Rhyne's projection design, depicts the constant motion of the bus.