Bus Stop, written in 1955 by William Inge, and currently playing at Raleigh Little Theatre, tells the story of a Kansas country diner which, as the title implies, doubles as a bus stop, in the middle of a snow storm that strands several travelers. The travelers come from all walks of life, and include two cowboys, a night club singer, and a professor with a drinking habit and a proclivity for teenage girls. Add to the mix the diner owner, the bus driver, a high school-age waitress, and the town sheriff, and things really get interesting. The plot lines range from a cowboy trying to re-light the spark of a romance gone south to the bus driver's less-than-perfect ruse to secretly get the diner owner alone upstairs. Moments in the show run the spectrum of serious to comedic, but manage to achieve some real humanity along the way. The show is written in the style one would expect from a 1950s play - a little too polished, but loveable nonetheless.
The show is being staged in Raleigh Little Theatre's Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre, and the theatre's thrust stage set-up is great for the show. The set is wonderfully dressed, and the seating makes the audience feel like they're sitting at a table in Grace's diner. From the authentically-worn tile floor to the mismatched wooden chairs, to the vintage ads and newspaper clippings on the wall, the set feels genuinely like a regular thoroughfare for the citizens of small-town America. The Midwest is summed up in that set. Add to that some working appliances and the smell of food cooking to the air, and the set is about as genuine as it gets.
Among the ensemble, the well-cast Katie Scofield stands out in her role as Cherie, the night club singer who, like all of us, is looking for her purpose in life. The tone of her voice, the manner with which she speaks, and the way she interacts with the rest of the cast all click wonderfully, and her performance is enjoyable to watch. Her Cherie is relatable and charming. Also standing strong in the ensemble is Connie di Grazia as Grace, the diner owner with a thing for the bus driver. Di Grazia sets the tone well for the diner and the town before the storm hits and company arrives, and carries it through to the end.
Bus Stop runs through February 24. For tickets and more information, visit www.raleighlittletheatre.org.
Photo credit: Curtis Brown.