Playwright William Inge had a penchant for immersing an audience in the common characters of the 1950s, the decade of his best stage writing. He fleshed out characters of the commonplace and showed them in their melancholy and strength. Inge focused on capturing the essence of each simple character to demonstrate the complexity that exists underneath the skin. He showed humor in the every day and conviction of will in small things. His stories explored the uncomplicated and ennobled the characters who would be real.
Broadway West Theatre Company is presenting Inge's most popular and best constructed play, "Bus Stop." Inge's tale has fresh characters, expected characters, and filler characters, all jumbled together. And the mix works, mostly.
The play is dated, for few people travel by bus these days. In "Bus Stop" an intrepid handful are making their way to new lives when their path is blocked by a snow storm. The roads are closed just out of Kansas City, and four passengers and their driver find themselves taking refuge in a small restaurant with limited resources. It seems each has a story to tell and each tries to tell it. But when doing so, they appear to separate themselves from the whole and move into vignettes.
Central is Bo's insistence that Cherie is his bride-to-be, regardless of her constant denials. He faces off with Will, the local sheriff, after Cherie asks for protection from Bo's unwanted advances. Virgil, Bo's riding partner, provides a steady
Morgan Voellger plays Cherie with a delightful fragility, a sophisticated cluelessness. She's been around, but doesn't know how to stop Cowboy from rough-riding her to the altar. She's well matched for Peter Finlayson, who as Bo is a powerful bull-in-the-china-shop rodeo king who demands her affection. Finlayson's got the clean-cut raw power appeal to win the part easily. David Ammon, as Bo's sidekick, Virgil, was exactly what you'd expect of an old hand at life: quiet, wise, and a little grizzled. Ammon brightens up the stage with a bit of guitar and vocals during an impromptu variety show.
Jim Coryelle plays Lyman with a disintegrating elegance while hitting the bottle and hitting on waitress Elma, played nicely by Jennifer Kiehl. Talents Lillian Bogovich (Grace), Brian Larsen (Will), and Gary Laidlaw (Carl) all give solid performances. Brushing aside a few snowflakes, "Bus Stop" is not a perfect show, but it will entertain.
"Bus Stop," is directed by Troy Johnson and runs through Aug. 15. The Broadway Theatre is located at 4000-B Bay St., Fremont. For box office and reservation information, call (510) 683-9210.