Renowned playwright William Inge authored 41 plays and won the Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize in his long career as a writer and actor. His dramady BUS STOP was first produced on Broadway in 1955 to rave reviews. Subsequently, it was made into a popular movie starring Marilyn Monroe and Don Murray. Over 60 years have passed since BUS STOP first came to life on the stage – but the conflicts experienced by a group of people thrown together in a blizzard in rural Kansas remain gripping even today.
Naïve and virginal cowboy Bo (Nico Boles) grew up on an isolated ranch in Montana. When he comes to Kansas City for a rodeo, he begins to experience the lure of the big city – especially after he meets and falls for Cherie (Kaitlin Huwe), a gilded chanteuse in a run-down nightclub. Bo snatches the unwilling Cherry – he just can’t pronounce her Frenchified name – from her life in Kansas City and drags her to, hopefully, his rural ranch. But fate may have other ideas when their bus is stuck overnight at a diner/bus stop waiting for the storm to subside.
BUS STOP also gives the audience a peek into the lives of some other passengers stranded by the storm, including the bus driver Carl (David Datz), wandering educator Dr. Lyman (Jack Sundmacher), and Bo’s ranch foreman and mentor Virgil (Gary Ballard). Some locals also get into the action: Grace (Michele Schultz), the bored and horny diner owner, Elma (Mani Yarosh), a young waitress with stars in her eyes and big plans, and Sheriff Will Masters (Shawn Savage). When these eight folks are thrown together, sparks will surely fly. And secrets will start to bubble to the surface.
Director Ann Hearn Tobolowsky does a superb job of helping these nice “down-home” characters learn things about themselves that have been hidden deep inside. To paraphrase Tennessee Williams, “…It’s a secret world that exists behind the screen of neighborly decorum.” Jeff G. Racks’ `50’s diner smacks of authenticity, while Michele Young’s costumes fit the era perfectly. Brandon Baruch’s lighting and Joseph Slawinski’s sound round out an excellent production team.
What is perhaps most surprising about BUS STOP, written so many years ago, is how timely the tale remains. Small towns and bus stops still exist, and Inge’s character remain fascinating and fun. Let’s not forget just how funny some of these situations can also be. Bits of hilarity are artfully interspersed with some very realistic and enduring questions.
BUS STOP runs through December 16, 2018, with performances at 8 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays; extra performances at 8 p.m. on two Mondays (12/3 and 12/10/18). Theatre 40 performs at the Reuben Cordova Theatre, located at 241 S. Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Tickets are $35. For information and reservations, call 310-364-0535 or go online.