nytheatre.com review by Lucile Scott
March 19, 2009
William Inge's Bus Stop, at The Gallery Players, is an engaging look at romantic love, in various and some slightly nefarious forms, that takes place during a late night stopover at a Kansas bus stop diner, Grace's. The bus is held up by bad weather and as its cranky and cold inhabitants trickle into the diner, it becomes apparent that a headstrong, physically forceful young cowboy, Bo Decker (Brad Lewandowski) is coercing an attractive young chanteuse, Cherie (Alisha Spielman)—pronounced Cherry by Bo—to move to Montana and become his bride.
This revival of Inge's 1955 play is a straightforward take on a piece driven by its characters, who are each very much a product of 1950s small town America, but their predicaments and hard-learned love lessons remain relevant and universal. Under Heather Siobhan Curran's direction, we smoothly pop in and out of the different conversations as all deal with the situation between Bo and Cherie and as other romances blossom while all discuss the role of romance and love in their lives. The bus driver and the diner owner, both lonely fixtures along the bus route, have a bantering flirtation and find companionship in each other's arms. Dr. Gerald Lyman (Josh Blaylock), a hard-drinking, thrice divorced East Coast professor who can quote Shakespeare and use large words, pontificates insightfully and bitterly about the nature of love and the sort of person who can truly know it as he attempts to pick up the teenage waitress. Blaylock plays him with a sharp combination of irony, self-loathing and arrogance that, along with Inge's words, render the drunken, lecherous man complicated and sympathetic.
Through the course of the play Bo, naïve, virginal, and fresh from winning a rodeo, learns that his love can't be lassoed and ridden into submission like a bronco and walks away more than a little more broken in himself. Lewandowski gives a swaggering performance as Bo that is convincing in its youthful arrogance, if not nuanced, in the first act, but in the second, as Bo learns about the agonizing vulnerability and tenderness that are requisite for real love, he imbues Bo with a touching and eager sweetness. Shawn Parsons oozes regrets and strength, in a standout performance as Bo's rugged, wise-word-doling-out sidekick Virgil, who has given up on love despite his evident appeal to women—and who can strum some mean Johnny Cash on his guitar.
At the end of the day, Bus Stop is a good stop-off to get a slice of classic Americana and reflect on the difficulty of letting oneself love and be loved.