By William Inge
Directed by Tim DeBaun
Starring Jamie Cline, Jamie-Lyn Markos, and Tim Bass
Theatre Downtown, Orlando FL
Sixty years ago the bus was a reasonable way to get around. No slower than a train and covering more territory than rare and exotic commercial air service, it had the advantage of hitting all those little burgs in the flyover states. Tonight we are somewhere between Kansas City and Topeka and the snow is coming down hard. This little bus stop run by straw widow Grace (Carol Adubato) and naïve Elam (Rachel Haas) is the one refuge on the prairie as road crews dig out the two lane ahead. Dance hall floozy Cherie (Markos) fears for her limited virginity, wild cowboy Bo Decker (Cline) has decided to marry her and steal her off to remote Montana, not necessarily in that order. It may be rape and flight across state lines, or it may be the best chance either of them will ever get. Bo’s long time buddy Virgil Blessing (Jeff Hole) is heartbroken; Grace finds a cure for headaches from double-entendre-spewing Carl the Bus Driver (Larry Stallings) an alcoholic child molester and Shakespearean declaimer Dr. Lyman (John Moughan) passes on seducing Elma in the Topeka library, preferring to continue preserving his liver in rye whiskey.
Well-cast and played for laughs, DeBaun’s production aims for fun and avoids the potential menace and moralizing that hangs bout the story. Stallings got the biggest laugh of all on a “pulling out” joke; his slow burn set a laugh length record for Theatre Downtown. Cline was at his rollicking best with a mane of wild hair and the physical presence that out-sized the lethargic yet deadly Sherriff Will Masters (Bass). As the lonely diner owner Ms. Adubato proves middle age doesn’t kill your sex drive and young Ms. Haas observes and attempts to grasp the complexities of adult sexual games. The most touching performance came from Mr. Hole, he knows it’s time to break up when his best friend finds a better one so it’s off to Albuquerque and another lonely ranch job for him. Lastly I’ll mention the wonderful bluster of Mr. Moughan, he may be drunk but he can bluff his was though Shakespeare and failed academic career yet still retain some sort of self-respect, even if the pain will never ever leave him.
More than a “slice of life” evening, “Bus Stop’s” comedy is a prismatic view of love. There’s the flush of commitment from Cherie and Bo, the desperate adultery of Grace and Carl, the potential for consensual abuse between Lyman and Emma, and the self-imposed rejection of Virgil. It’s amazing what you can squeeze into one little diner out there where the tumble weeds are the only other action.
For more information on Theatre Downtown, please visit http://www.theatredowntown.net