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Bus Stop

a Romantic Comedy
CATEGORY :
by William Inge

COMPANY : Theatre in the Square [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Theatre in the Square [WEBSITE]
ID# 1552

SHOWING : March 15, 2006 - April 23, 2006

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Classic romantic comedy about love at first sight, a late-night bus arrives at a Kansas diner and is promptly snowbound. Mix a blizzard with two traveling cowboys, a nightclub singer, a college professor, the women who work at the diner, and the local sheriff to create a humorous and touching soufflé about people who will have a night of discovery and, perhaps, a change of heart.


CAST & CREW LIST
Fight Choreographer Jason Armit
Elma Myranda DeFoor
Director Jessica Phelps West
Carl Henry Bazemore, Jr.
Virgil Steve Coulter
Cherie Crystal A. Dickinson
Dr. Lyman James Donadio
Bo Neal A Ghant
Grace Marguerite Hannah-Middleton
Sheriff Mark Kincaid
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REVIEWS

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Another Roadside Attraction
by Dedalus
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
4.0
Take the Bus up to Marietta’s Theatre-in-the-Square. You will get to pleasant attraction that, luckily enough, is still running. William Inge’s “Bus Stop” is a popular piece that hasn’t lost its appeal. To recap for those of you who consider any Roadside Attraction mere “flyover country,” let me recap. The scene is a Diner/Bus Station in a small town in Kansas. A snow storm has stranded a busload of travelers until the snow plows get in gear. Montana cowboy Bo Decker has more-or-less kidnapped lounge singer Cherie in the hopes of making her his missus. Hilarity ensues.

It’s so easy to heap scorn on this script – the characters are “types” rather than real people, the set-up is offensive to our post-feminist sensitivities, the “revelations” can be predicted as if they were on a graph, the conclusion is as sappy as any in a bodice-ripping western.

I suspect these gut reactions are based only on a superficial reading of the play. In fact, these were my reactions when I first read it. But seeing it “on its feet” in a first-rate production with a first-rate cast reminded me why it’s a classic, why Inge is considered a master.

Let’s start with what should be evident on a first reading. This dialog sings. It strikes at the heart of what it means to be alive and human and in love (or lust) and makes us see the people beneath the types. Yes, a quick summary tells us Bo is the “innocent cowboy” and Lyman is the “lecherous teacher” and Cherie is the “bombshell with the heart of gold.” But believe me, no caricature ever talked like this, no stereotype ever made us believe (like this) that these are real people stranded in a snowstorm.

The casting choices made by director Jessica Phelps West are also inspired. Casting African-American actors in the pivotal roles of Bo and Cherie may seem like gimmickry. This is supposed to be the 1950’s, after all. But this choice lessens the “stock” quality of the characters, makes them more human. And, when you consider that “Cowboy” and “Lounge Singer” were actually “acceptable” roles for African-Americans at the time, it adds a sad patina of social relevance that does not distract – it makes them real people in a real world facing real dilemmas.

And you know what? The more real the characters are, the less “sappy” the ending becomes. The choices Cherie no doubt faced were bad and worse. Her change of heart is no longer contrived, it is actually expected.

I could go on and on about all the different aspects of love Inge examines, or about the nature of guilt and redemption, of how innocence can be knowing – all this is ably supported by this so-called “tired and dated” script. But why should I? If you don’t get none o’ this hi-falutin’ literary stuff, it won’t make you enjoy the play any less.

The entire cast needs to be commended. From Crystal Dickinson and Neal Ghant (as Cherie and Bo), to the Dr. Lyman of James Donadio to the supporting work of Marguerite Hannah-Middleton, Myranda DeFoor, Mark Kincaid, Henry Bazemore Jr, and especially Steve Coulter, this cast clicks at every level.

An interesting thing happened while I’ve been writing this. This started out as another “good but not memorable” production I’d been putting off writing about. But, as I’ve been focusing on the play and performances, and how it all actually sits with me at this point in time, the production has grown in memory, in resonance.

And isn’t that what it means to be classic?

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)
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