“Bus Stop” directed by: John Edmonds
Running dates: July 29-August 7, 2016
Synopsis: In the middle of a howling snowstorm, a bus out of Kansas City is forced to stop at a cheerful but dingy roadside diner. The road to Topeka is blocked and the four passengers are stranded overnight. Cherie, a nightclub chanteuse in a sparkling gown and seedy fur-trimmed jacket, is frantic to escape the attentions of another passenger. She has been kidnapped by Bo, a rowdy cowboy with marriage on his mind and the romantic methods of a headstrong bull. He is ready to sling her over his shoulder and carry her, alive and kicking, all the way to his ranch in Montana. Grace, the proprietor of the cafe, and the bus driver Carl are finally able to spend more than 20 minutes together and make the most of it. Dr. Lyman, a middle aged scholar with a shady past, comes to terms with himself. Elma, a naïve, young girl who works in the cafe, gets her first taste of romance. Virgil is a guitar playing cowboy trying to referee the tumultuous relationship between Bo and Cherie. Sheriff Will, loved and respected by the locals, takes a more direct approach to curbing Bo’s misplaced enthusiasm. Quoting The New York Post: “William Inge..brings to the theatre a kind of warm-hearted compassion, creative vigor, freshness of approach and appreciation of average humanity that can be wonderfully touching and stimulating.”
Review by Clyde Morrison
Entering the playhouse this time we were pleasantly surprised by a curtain hiding the stage. Then when the curtain was drawn we were amazed by the setting of Grace’s Cafe. This setting is one of the finest I have seen at Mund’s Park. There was an old wall telephone, a bar, older style tables and chairs and even a bank of seats against the wall for those waiting to board the bus. The doors were a bright blue with Grace’s Cafe painted on them so it could be read from the outside. There was even a window with a snow scene outside and snow coming down. What an outstanding effort was put forward by the set designers, Nancy and Bart Del Duco. It might be noted here also that Bart is responsible for the new add-on for the ticket booth and concession stand at the front of the theater. That makes it easier to find the ticket booth and gives the Players a place to store walls and sets. Thanks, Bart.
Bus Stop is not a play with a complex plot. It is simply the story of a snowy night in which a bus is forced to stop for a while at an old and small cafe for a few hours. However, what makes this play fun is the development of interesting characters. The main characters were Bo (played by Bill Gibney) and Cherie (played by Melanie Westmark). Very well done both of you. Bo was a cowboy who had no idea how he was to act around a woman. Cherie was a lounge singer of questionable reputation who was being forced by Bo into a possible marriage and move to a ranch in Montana. She was somewhat interested in Bo, but his loud, forceful behavior was not what she wanted in a marriage, and he frightened her.
This was John Edmonds’ first time directing on the Pinewood stage, and what a job he did. Here is hoping he will continue directing for our theater. His fresh ideas were welcome. For instance, when speeches were going on at one part of the stage, action was still happening at other places. Bo kept pacing back and forth as he was trying to understand Cherie and how he was supposed to act toward her. Vern, Bo’s sidekick played by Les Maurseth perfectly. He kept picking at his guitar and calming the outbursts of Bo. Dr. Lyman kept drinking and adding something from his flask into what the waitress brought to him as he tried to make friends with her. All of these were important to the development of the characters as they related to others.
My favorite characters were Dr Lyman (Lee Henry) and the young innocent waitress Elma (Madison Edmonds). Dr. Lyman liked young women and booze. He knew Shakespeare, and that just captivated the naive Elma. Her wide eyed innocence and admiration for the doctor was wonderfully portrayed. The Romeo and Juliet scene was a classic as Elma lip-synced Romeo’s speeches. She really felt the emotion of the sad Juliet. What a remarkable, entertaining actress this young Madison is.
The biggest laugh in the whole play was when Grace (acted by Nancy Del Duco) came on stage in a kimono and wildly messed up hair. She had told her waitress that she had a bad headache and needed to rest so she went up to her apartment. At about the same time the bus driver (Scott Sustman) said he needed to go out for a walk in the freezing cold and snow. It appeared that Grace didn’t get much rest as the bus driver’s boots were found outside her door and he had obviously spent hours with her in her apartment.
The veteran Pinewood Players actors Bill Gibney, Melanie Westmark, Nancy Del Duco, Les Maureth, and Lee Henry were all at the best of their performances. And, the completely new and recent additions to the team of players Madison Edmonds, Scott Sustman, and Marty Haughan made this an evening to enjoy and remember.