BWW Reviews: A Slice of Life and Pie at Mary Moody Theatre's BUS STOP
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by Jeff Davis
The 1950s is considered by many to be the pinnacle of American Theater. It was the decade that saw Arthur Miller's THE CRUCIBLE, Tennessee Williams's CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, and Eugene O'Neill's LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT. But while Miller, Williams, and O'Neill set the theater world ablaze with highly dramatic pieces featuring unforgettable characters, playwright William Inge took a completely different approach by writing BUS STOP, a simplistic slice-of-life drama about an assembly of strangers and the secrets each of them wish to hide. While it may not be as well-known or as important as the aforementioned pieces by his colleagues, Inge's little play, currently presented at St. Edward's University's Mary Moody Northern Theatre, is at times just as moving.
As a modern drama that plays out in real time, BUS STOP requires a strong design team to create a realistic 1950s diner ambiance, and the team here is up to the challenge. Ia Enstera's set is brilliant. This space feels lived in, a little warn and past its prime, and still full of small-town charm, and the costumes by Austin Rausch are equally as quaint. But it is Director Christina Moore who gets to have the most fun and two large challenges: Mary Moody's Arena Stage and a play about people waiting for a storm to pass, meaning there's little real action. Still, she's up to the challenge and embraces that Inge's play is a no-frills look at lonely, ordinary people.
And while the cast may be small and intimate as well, they are all quite gifted. As brutish cowboy, Bo Decker, David Cameron Allen has the scowling nastiness down, but he struggles a tad with the important moments in which Bo's underlying vulnerabilities come to the surface. As Bo's unwilling fiancé, Cherie, Emily Donald is delightfully sweet and ditzy with a welcome dash of farmgirl thrown in. Sarah Gay excels as Grace, the diner owner who is hungry for the bus driver, Carl, played with winking machismo by Matthew A. Garcia. Jeremy Fowler gives a strong turn as Will, the town sheriff, and the role of Bo's wise older friend, Vergil, fits David Jones like a glove. Yet the standouts of the cast are really Meredith Stein as Elma, the young, naïve waitress and David Stahl as the boozing Dr. Lyman. Ms. Stein is so earnest and cute you can't help but like her, and Stahl is heartbreaking, particularly in his many scenes with Stein. Though the entire production is fantastic, you will remember Stein and Stahl the most.
True, BUS STOP may not be as well-known or memorable as some of the other American works that came out of the 1950s, but anyone who sees the solid production at St. Edwards University won't care one bit. This is an entertaining, tender, and delicate look at love and life and what we will share with strangers. The play may not tell you anything you don't already know, but it's a fun way to spend an evening.
BUS STOP plays the Mary Moody Northern Theatre at St. Edwards University now thru Sunday, November 18th. Performances are Thursday thru Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2pm. Tickets are $15-$20. For tickets and information, visit think.stedwards.edu/theatre.