Bus stops, those dreadful asylums for awkward stares and weather talk, are not a place of insight, a place of harbor, nor a place for incredibly meaningful conversation. Odd, then, that everybody seems to know everything about each other and yet nothing about life in “Bus Stop,” by William Inge. The play, presented by The Summer Company and directed by Justin Sines, runs on August 28-30 and may be worth your time.
It takes clever writing to make a story about being stuck at a restaurant bus stop over night entertaining. “Clever” describes the whole play almost to a T (No more bus puns). The script is overflowing with innuendo, situational comedy, and smart wording, but fails to really grasp its message. Every twist is expected and almost as clichéd as a theatre critique. I won’t spoil anything because I don’t need to unless you, the reader, have an IQ below that of the average fish. The play also lacks logic at times, making some scenes laughable in a bad way. During the build up to the climax, a fatherly character tries to consol a younger man on how to become desirable to the opposite sex via tenderness. Directly after, the female of his choosing says multiple times, very loudly how much she wants her theoretical spouse to be gentle. Hear that, Bo? Gentle. I said tender. I want a man to be compassionate. Really, I’d do anything for that type of guy. Delayed possibly five seconds after she almost yells her desire for a sensitive mate, her down trodden counterpart says, “I just can’t see how any woman could like a man who’s tender.” Whether its awkward phrasing from the script or a lack of self awareness from the actors, something that should have been properly funny fell flat. If you’re looking for a play to watch that punishes you for thinking, but is truly comical, consider Bus Stop.
The acting is also hit or miss, but thankfully less so. Every actor conveys the symbolism of their character very well if not too obviously. Stand out performances by Everett Lowe and Roberta Honse carry the production from a thematic and comedic perspective respectively. The other actors don’t. They act well, but fall into triteness occasionally and are quick to overact during pivotal scenes. The result is not bad by any meaning of the word, but extinguishes any sense of sensitivity. Yes, a drunkard reenacting the balcony scene should be comically overplayed. Through the process, however, the audience forgets the dark aspects of him trying to seduce a young woman. The acting is very much like the script, funny and blunt.
With very appealing set design and surprisingly good direction, it’s odd that “Bus Stop” fails to reach depth. Except for one surprising and well played twist involving Richard Eckman (who acted sparsely but delightfully), the play is held back and could have been profound. “Bus Stop” does not suffer from lack of humor, lack of self realization (in the script, at any rate) or poor planning, but from a missing soul. It’s an elaborate pattern set up with dominoes by someone who very evidently knows what they are doing but due to a few poorly calibrated pieces fails at achieving anything but entertainment. See it if you need a laugh and it will deliver.
Thank you to The Summer Company for free admitance to “Bus Stop.”
Performance Date: August 26, 2014