Carol’s Culture Corner: “exceptionally talented cast” in Bus Stop

Bus Stop was written by playwright William Inge. It was produced on Broadway in 1955 and made into a film in 1956. It is a well-written character play, and although it takes place in 1952, it could take place at any time.

The story is set in a restaurant located on a highway in a small town in Kansas (set design by Jeff D. Rack) during a winter month. Because of icy conditions on the highway, a bus is forced to stop at the diner where its passengers can relax, have a meal, and possibly stay overnight, during the time it takes for the roads to clear.

Grace (Michele Schultz), who owns the restaurant, is set in her ways, friendly enough, but tries not to get too involved with her customers. However, Carl the bus driver (David Datz), undoubtedly makes many stops at Grace’s diner, and she seems to always look forward to those occasions and his company.

On the other hand, the young waitress Elma (Mani Yarosh), is more outgoing and pleased to meet all of the passengers. Cherie (Kaitlin Huwe) is a sexy 19 year old saloon singer who rushes into the diner with her suitcase which she hides behind the counter, making it clear that she will not go back on the bus to continue its destination. She lets the local sheriff, Will Masters (Shawn Savage), know that she is being harassed by Bo Decker (Nico Boles), an impetuous young man, who is trying to force her into marrying him.

Virgil Blessing (Gary Ballard) befriends Bo and tries to explain to him why he has alienated Cherie. But it takes Sheriff Masters to take Bo down to finally make him see the light. Meanwhile, Dr. Gerald Lyman (Jack Sundmacher), a retired college professor who is a depressed alcoholic, becomes overly friendly with innocent Elma. She becomes infatuated with him, but no harm occurs before the roads are cleared and everyone returns to the bus. By that time, Bo has become a changed man and wins the heart of Cherie who follows him to the bus to renew their journey together. As the last of the passengers walk out the door, Grace goes through her task of closing the diner.

Bus Stop is a production of Theatre 40 under the astute direction of Ann Hearn Tobolowsky with an exceptionally talented cast that brings all of its interesting characters to life.