Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Bus Stop. It was by William Inge and it was directed by Steve Scott. It was about a young woman named Elma (Jillian Warden) who works at Grace's (Sarah Bright) diner, and there is a snowstorm happening outside, so a whole busload of people have to spend the night there. Cherie (Daniella Pereira) is a singer in a club and she is trying to get away from her boyfriend Bo (Anthony Conway) who is forcing her to marry him. Bo is traveling along with Virgil (Zach Bloomfield) who is like a father figure to him. Dr. Lyman (Ted Hoerl) is a professor who has quit his job and is traveling the world to feel free. He develops a close relationship with Elma. The bus driver, Carl (Matt Thinnes), seems to have a very intimate relationship with Grace. The Sheriff stops in for coffee and to help out Cherie so she doesn't get taken away by Bo again. There are all these people getting to know each other and bonding, but also sometimes the people that already know each other are growing apart. It is about how people relate to each other, old-fashioned ideas of what women want, and redemption. I thought this was a very well acted show but that the script, because it is pretty old, had some disturbing implications.
The general problem with the script is how Bo can physically and verbally abuse someone and she will forgive him and say, "Aw, never mind. He's really cute though isn't he?" Which is problematic for so many reasons. One of the reasons it is so troubling is because it seems to be saying that he was just so in love with her, he had to kidnap her, which isn't a good excuse. I also feel that the way that Bo is supposed to learn his lesson is disturbing: by getting beaten up by the Sheriff. In this production it was particularly distressing to watch because of the current violence against black people by law enforcement in America. I'm not sure if we were not supposed to think about race, but it is hard not to when a white sheriff is beating up a black man and no one is standing up for the victim and we are supposed to think everyone just gets along okay afterwards. It is not like Bo hadn't done anything wrong, but there were better ways to prevent him from bothering Cherie. I also found the answer to the question that Grace asked Carl after they had had a night together--if he was married--was a little late to ask that. And also he did not ever give her a yes or no answer, which is what you call a red flag. I don't think relationships have to be perfect examples in plays; bad relationships can be interesting to watch on stage. But if they aren't examples of good relationships, I don't like to see them placed in front of you as fine.
I do really love the mentorships in the show. They really bring some lovely non-romantic relationships into the storyline, which is so full of romance. I really love the relationship between Elma and Grace. They seem to really help each other out, and Grace treats Elma as a sister and tries to teach her and help her to become a self-aware person. They also had really cute jokes they had together, like how Grace didn't like cheese so she never restocked it. I also really love the relationship between Bo and Virgil because you never really get to see Bo be vulnerable or not try and be the strong, manly cowboy that he usually is around anybody else except Virgil.
People who would like this show are people who like significant mentorships, nonexistent rope tricks, and a lack of cheese. I think this is a really interesting show to watch. It has really great actors and a compelling storyline. It just has some old-fashioned and misogynistic ideas that I'm not a huge fan of.
Photos: Scott Dray