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July 22, 2009 > Theatre Review: Bus Stop at Broadway West

Theatre Review: Bus Stop at Broadway West

By Vidya Pradhan

Adapted from a one-act play called People in the Wind, William Inge's Bus Stop is a touching and humorous look at eight characters forced by a blizzard to spend an extended period of time at a rural bus stop in Kansas. It was made into a successful movie starring Marilyn Monroe and Don Murray, but Broadway West's production is based on the original play, set entirely inside the rest area.

The characters that populate the bus stop are diverse: hard-boiled crass widow Grace, whose husband's desertion has left her lonely for companionship; Elma Duckworth, a naive and impressionable high-school student; local sheriff Will Masters who steps in and out of the scene and the bus driver. The rest are passengers on the bus from Kansas, embroiled in their own problems which spill over into the bus stop when the weather strands them for several hours. Among them is nightclub singer Cherie, who has been forcibly abducted by rodeo cowboy Bo Decker, looking for a way out from being married and taken to a remote ranch in Montana. Bo's friend Virgil is a helpless observer, vainly attempting to curb Bo's rash and reckless behavior. Another passenger, Dr. Gerald Lyman, a boozy reprobate, instantly puts the moves on Elma.

These are frustrated and lonely characters and their loneliness makes for surprisingly effective comedy as playwright Inge mines their plight for shrewd and timeless observations about the human condition. William Inge came from the flat Midwest plains and wrote about an environment he was intimately familiar with; the result is a play that feels true to its milieu, even though several decades have passed.

Long-time Broadway West director Troy Johnson does an excellent job bringing this Midwestern play to life. He is aided by the intimate setting. The bus stop is a cozy refuge against the blizzard raging outside; and the small theater is just the right size to make the audience feel that they are curious observers inside the bus stop, huddled together against the howling wind.

Morgan Voellger brings an appealing vulnerability to her role as Cherie. Her mobile face conveys her helplessness and her conflict in rejecting a potential suitor and her impromptu performance of "That Old Black Magic" is spot on. Audience members familiar with the movie version may be tempted to draw comparisons with Marilyn Monroe's sweet, affected performance, but Morgan does a good job of making the character her own.

But the real star of the show is Peter Finlayson as Bo Decker. In his first performance for Broadway West, he brings the house down as the rambunctious, hot-headed Bo who is crazy about "Cherry" and can't conceive that she may not love him back. His voice modulation is perfect, and when Sheriff Will gives him a good thrashing for his obnoxious behavior, it's hard not to feel a pang of sympathy for this greenhorn cowboy.

The rest of the cast turn in good supporting performances though Jim Coryelle appears slightly miscast as Dr. Lyman. Instead of a jaded, inebriated roue, Jim looks more like one's favorite grandpa and Elma's attraction towards him is not easily understandable. Brian Larsen as Will does a sturdy and competent job.

Bus Stop runs through August 15th of this year. It is a good way to cool off this hot summer.

Bus Stop
Thru August 15
Thursday, Friday and Saturday - 8 p.m.
Sunday matinee at 1 p.m.

Broadway West Theatre Company
4000 Bay St., Fremont
(510) 683-9218

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