William Inge’s BUS STOP, a play about a set of travelers that become held up at a roadside diner during a March snowstorm and the situations they all hold on to, makes its appearance as the third production of the 2018-19 season presented by Theatre 40 of Beverly Hills.
The setting is a standard roadside diner located in a small eastern nameless Kansas community. A bus on a Kansas City-Wichita route is forced to stop due to a late winter blizzard. The place is run by Grace Hoylard (Michele Schultz), who serves as head waitress. Her assistant waitress Elma Duckworth (Mani Yarosh) is still in her teens, working her way through high school. Elma is very familiar with this bus as it passes by a number of times a week. The local sheriff Will Masters (Shwarn Savage) a regular patron, informs Grace that the bus and its passengers will take refuge at the diner until the storm blows over. The bus passengers consists of Cherie (Kaitlin Huwe), a night club singer, Bo (Nico Boles) a rodeo rider and cowboy of sorts along with his guitar playing cowpoke companion Virgil Blessings (Gary Ballard), Dr. Gerald Lyman (Jack Sundmacher) a college professor who has a habit of hitting the sauce more than hitting the books, and the bus driver Carl (David Datz). While keeping out of the winter storm, another storm gathers in the diner that isn’t weather related! Bo has the desire to marry Cherie, although she claims that Bo abducted her from a Kansas City club she was performing at. Dr. Lyman attempts to woo the young and rather naive Elma, who finds the college professor amusing due to his vast knowledge in literature. Grace is intrigued by bus driver Carl, even to have a fling or two with this man, although he never says if he is even married in the first place! Sheriff Will tries to keep things in order. All of these elements progress throughout the night until the roads are clear and everyone heads out to where they are going.
This play written by playwright William Inge and first presented in 1955, has been deemed to be part of an American classic in terms of theater, and still serves as a staple in regional and community theater houses. In this Theater 40 production, the setting keeps to its 1950’s-era period thanks to Jeff G. Rack’s set design of the diner itself, along with Michele Young’s costume design. The cast that appear in this program under the stage direction of Ann Hearn Tobolowsky, present themselves as a band of misfit people that winds up at a place that could be considered as a “drive-by” location where one would only stop for a cup of coffee and a piece of pie and not much more. Here, there is more than just coffee and pie being served as the cast of characters play out their roles to their very utmost.
This is one of those stage pieces composed by William Inge that fit within the annals of theater that have been studied for its character development many times over–the same procedure that plays by Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, and a host of other similar writers that are taken as academic masterpieces. In spite of its intellectual structure this play may contain, BUS STOP still holds up to its entertainment value. Granted, it’s part of the 1950’s-era vista, and rightly so. Those times may seem innocent in today’s landscape, but were far from anything as being safe and secure. No matter though! Theatre 40 continues to provide an eclectic variety of stage plays as presented through the facilities of artistic director David Hunt Stafford. With the selection of plays as performed by this theatre troupe, it’s always a treat to see a time-tested classic. BUS STOP is one of those plays that will leave the driving to “us”!