By William Inge
Director – Matt Stepan
Stage Manager – Paula Raven
Set Design – Abby Kipp-Roberts
Costume Design – Carver Upton
Sound Design – Shauna Holloway and Jason Rice
Light Design – Maxim Overton
Properties Design – Kristen M. Burgess
Fight Choreographer – Joseph L. Taylor II
Elma Duckworth: Courtney Beyer
Grace Hoyland: Victoria Irvine
Will Masters: Walt Threlkeld
Cherie: Trisha Romo
Dr. Gerald Lyman: Steve Roberts
Carl: Chuck E. Moore
Virgil Blessing: Deron Wade
Bo Decker: Matt Lancaster
Reviewed Performance: 9/16/2017
Reviewed by Jeri Tellez, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Bus Stop is set in the 1950s, in a small town in Kansas. Being from a small town in Kansas myself, as is the playwright, I imagine my expectations of realism were a bit higher than most. I was not disappointed by the small town attitude (including minding everyone else’s business), the tile floors, the inclusion of sunflowers, and the mis-matched chairs.
Matt Lancaster seemed well past the 21 years that Bo Decker stated as his age, but his acting was good. Although his accent seemed a bit too southern, he was perfectly egotistical, and appropriately humbled. His pride and swagger hid the lonely soul of an orphan, and his sense of entitlement was evident.
As Cherie, Trisha Romo did a lovely job. She was endearing, world weary and uneducated, and her interactions with other characters were completely believable. She had just enough allure, without being too trashy, and her delivery was consistent.
Courtney Beyer was charming and innocent as young Elma Duckworth, and genuinely appeared clueless as to the intentions of other characters, until they were pointed out. She had the energy and optimism of a high school student, and played Elma with ease.
Victoria Irvine as Grace Hoyland did a wonderful job of dealing with what appeared to be a “post tech week” voice. I heard comments at intermission about smoker’s voice, which I suppose could have been a character choice, but I’m sure it wasn’t. In spite of her vocal issues, her performance was solid and her reactions seemed sincere.
Walt Threlkeld brought Sheriff Will Masters to life beautifully. He had just enough bravado to communicate his lack of intimidation, but was otherwise the perfect small-town citizen. He let Bo get himself in trouble, and put him in his place the only way he could.
Dr. Gerald Lyman, portrayed by Steve Roberts, was wonderfully uppity, with the occasional slip in his facade. He was just creepy enough with Elma to convey his motives without alerting the others in the diner. While he did appear to struggle with a few lines, his transition from pretentious to remorseful was well done.
Bus driver Carl (Chuck E. Moore) was perfect as the roving Casanova, and seemed to have a real connection with Grace. Their chemistry was subtle but noticeable, present but not distracting. Moore's gestures spoke volumes without detracting from the main story.
Deron Wade was superb as Virgil Blessing, part friend and part father figure to wild young Bo. He was firm and tactful, but knew when to leave Bo to stew by himself. His sacrifice was beautifully displayed, and the guitar playing was a nice touch.
I did notice a few directorial choices that I might have done differently, but never having directed myself, I can't say for sure that Matt Stepan’s decision were necessarily wrong. I did notice Matt Lancaster reacting in pain at times, but not consistently. I wondered how Dr. Lyman could sleep sitting up, especially when he was sitting on a bench, but I appreciated how the big fight was staged. It would be unfair to say the characters weren't developed, but I wasn't drawn in the way I have been in other shows.
It appeared that set designer Paula Raven was under the impression that a floor could not stay clean during a snowstorm, which I chalked up to lack of familiarity with the setting. The rest of the set had just enough small town charm. I think I would have preferred the kitchen be off-stage to avoid the unfortunate self-cooking eggs and meat that made no noise while being fried, but the rest of the set was well-designed.
I was frustrated that the realism of the food was a bit lacking (food not cooked at the “stove”, donut holes called donuts, the aforementioned self-cooking eggs), but Kristin M. Burgess’ props were spot on. I saw glasses, salt and pepper shakers, sauce pans, and decorations that could have been in my grandmother’s house. The cards, books, and cake cover were of period design.
Carver Upton's costumes were hit and miss. The waitress, bus driver, and sheriff uniforms were perfect, and the saddle shoes, bolero tie and large belt buckles were a nice touch. A Montana rancher, however, would likely wear more than a thin shirt and a blazer in a drafty bus during a snow storm, and the plaid shirt worn by Virgil seemed a bit too modern. I also thought Cherie’s black hose and heels seemed rather new, and the men’s boots were too clean to have been trudging through the snow and mud.
There were just enough subtle lighting changes to draw attention to a particular character at times, but I wondered why the change was made if the other characters were still clearly visible and not frozen. With the one setting, there wasn't much room to do anything else, but everyone and everything seemed well lit.
There also wasn't a lot of demand for sound effects, but I appreciated the sounds of the bus and the storm coming from the direction of the outside door. The phone ringing, however, was obviously not coming from the phone.
The fight choreography was superb. While the face slap missed the mark, the actual fight was real enough some of the audience believed there was actual hitting. I especially appreciated this when I realized the entire fight could have “taken place” offstage. Kudos to Joseph L. Taylor II for facilitating a realistic performance. All in all, this was an enjoyable production, worthy of a few hours of your time.
Bus Stoop runs through October 7 at Rover Dramawerks
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays 8:00 p.m.
Matinees Saturdays 3:00 p.m.
Thursdays / Matinees $16; Fridays /Saturday Nights $22*
$2 off Students* (An ID is nice but not required. Just don't rip us off)
$2 off Seniors*
$2 off each: 10-19 tickets (Same as the Student/Senior discount - not combinable)
$4 off each: 20+ tickets
For more info or to purchase tickets go to: http://www.roverdramawerks.com