Thursday October 19th 2017

“Bus Stop”

Recommended “Bus Stop” is one of William Inge’s best known plays. Most people remember it from the movie version as it featured Marilyn Monroe as the showgirl Cherry, but I have always preferred seeing it “live” on a smaller stage. That is what makes the current version, now on stage at The Raven Theatre very special. This is a simple story dealing with personalities- people whose lives are somewhat “lost” who come together at a small diner/bus stop in the middle of Kansas during a cold wintry snowstorm. Directed by JoAnn Montemurro on a great set by Ray Toler, we are peering into the forlorn lives of Inge’s characters and how they relate to each other as this particular night changes their lives, perhaps forever.

Grace ( Kristen Williams) owns the diner that serves as the Bus Stop along these Kansas roads, She is a loner, who lives upstairs and flirts with the drivers who make their usual trips. During this particular overnight, the driver of this bus, Carl ( Dean La Prarie) gets to know a little more about the lady he has crossed paths with over these years. Her young helper, a high school student with a thirst for knowledge and a love of people, Elma ( a delightful portrayal by Sophia Mendenian) helps to bring out the best in all of the characters that Inge introduces us to.

On the bus, we have Dr. Gerald Lyman ( another great character played to perfection by Jon Steinhagen) , who as we learn is a “dirty old man” who has given up his scholastic life, after three divorces, to travel the roads and find young girls to keep his youth. We have Cherie ( aka “Cherry”) a singer in a club deftly played by Jen Short and the cowboy Bo Decker ( Michael Stegall, who comes on a bit strong to start with, but slowly becomes a real person) who has fallen in love with her and has taken her on this ride to come to his ranch and marry him ( despite her protestations) and his sidekick Virgil Blessing ( well played by Mark Pracht).

The other character in this study of personalities is the local sheriff, Will Masterson ( a solid performance by Antoine Pierre Whitfield) who becomes the person that takes control of the situation and brings it all together.Since it is the mission of Raven Theatre to present plays that illuminate the American Experience, selecting “Bus Stop” was a great choice- Cowboys,a showgirl, a lonely waitress, an on the road dirty old man all coming together in America’s “heartland” during a snow storm truly gets to the heart of the matter. The characters we meet all have their own stories and we watch these stories come to life and adjust during these two acts in a way that really makes us feel as if we are the fly on the wall watching it all come to life. We even get to witness a love-hate relationship turn into a true love story and never feel that it was forced or pushed- Inge uses his words to bring these characters to the point he has chosen for them and with the help of solid direction, Montemurro, who has an excellent cast, makes it all happen.

The lighting by Diane D. Fairchild, sound by Melissa Schlessinger, costumes by Joelle Beranek and props by Mary O’Dowd all add to the recipe for making a complete production. If you have seen this play before or only the movie version, you owe it to yourself to see this intimate version. It is worth the trip to the Raven Theatre located at 6157 N. Clark Street ( at Granville). “Bus Stop” will continue through December 11th with performances as follows:

Thursdays,Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

Tickets are $30 ( $25 for students and seniors) and can be ordered by calling 773-338-2177 or online at www.raventheatre.com

There is a parking lot ( free) adjacent to the theater and lots of street parking. The #22 Clark Street bus lets you off at the door as well.

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