Lonely ‘Bus Stop’

A cast of eight and a single set – in the hands of a master – is being presented beginning next Tuesday at the Aleshire Theater and running through Saturday, Feb. 23. It is one of several highly recognizable shows by the “Playwright of the Midwest,” William Inge, whose works include “Come Back, Little Sheba,” “Splendor in the Grass” and “Picnic.”

“Bus Stop” is considered by some to be a comedy, by others a drama, but is possibly best described as a “slice of life.”

“It’s like a love story, with all the characters going through changes within it,” said stage manager Brittany Armstrong. “The theme is loneliness, and that’s why the set has a somewhat decayed look.”

The play takes place in a diner in Kansas in 1955 during a freak snowstorm. Kevin Neuharth designed the set and lighting plot to continue that theme and emphasize the isolation of the characters. The diner is owned by Grace Hoylard, played by Krys Zorbaugh, and the bus driver is Carl, played by freshman Charles Wollschlager. They have a relationship dependent on his schedule – which seems to satisfy both of them. Other locals are the waitress Elma Duckworth, a naive high school girl played by Amanda Miller-Thomas, and local sheriff Will Masters, played by Cole Anderson. Coming into town on the bus is Bo Decker, a young rancher played by Casey Feldner, who has just fallen head-over-heels for would-be nightclub singer Cherie, played by Emily Taylor. Bo’s best friend Virgil, older and wiser, is played by Grant Johnson, and Dr. Gerald Lyman is a retired college professor played by Daniel Johnson.

Being set in the mid-1950s can date the references and strain the acceptance of passe morality by modern audiences, but the intricacies of the intertwining relationships is fascinating. It may look cliche, but that is because so many subsequent plays and sitcoms have re-worked this classic setup.

“Everyone in the audience will find that one of the characters resonates with them,” said Zorbaugh. “It’s so much about what love is like at various stages in people’s lives.”

The challenge she met in doing this play was “the language,” she said. “The last few shows I’ve been cast as an older person, being an older-than-average student I fit the parts.

“But Grace is a younger woman, and the language is not as elegant as in ‘Tartuffe,’ for example. There’s a lot of over-enunciation.”

“I chose this particular play because, although the main story follows the characters Cherie and Bo and their tumultuous love affair, it delves deeper into many of the facets of the human qualities of love and loneliness,” said director Aili Smith said. “It’s a highly collaborative play, highlighting a versatile cast of characters.”

Performances are at 7:30 p.m., with doors opening at 7 p.m.

For tickets, contact the Aleshire Theater Box Office at 858-3172. Prices are $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and students under 18. MSU students, faculty and staff are free with current MSU ID. Reservations are encouraged. Patrons are reminded that parking is unrestricted on the MSU campus after 5 p.m.