The Main attraction
Main Street Theatre Works seems to have hit on a winning concept: staging an American classic in the group’s Kennedy Mine Amphitheatre. Last summer it was The Rainmaker, a production that was just nominated for several Elly Awards. This year, it’s William Inge’s Bus Stop, featuring several of the same cast members. And it’s arguably an even better show.
Bus Stop takes place on Inge’s home turf, small-town Kansas circa 1950, where a bus is waiting out a March blizzard at a roadside restaurant. The characters include two waitresses, a lawman, the bus driver and four passengers: a nightclub floozy from Kansas City, two cowboys from Montana and an unemployed English professor who quotes Shakespeare between gulps of whiskey from a hidden bottle.
Technically, the story’s a comedy. Three “could be” couples quickly emerge, and there’s a happy ending, sort of. But this isn’t storybook love. One couple is a pair of consenting adults opting for a quickie. Another pair’s courtship looks more like a case of abduction, and the third is a creepy mismatch between a middle-aged male authority figure and a teenage girl. Inge works up funny situations in this play for grown-ups, periodically including some wise, plainspoken lines about how truly challenging it can be to do the right thing in love.
The production is beautifully cast, with Dale Lisa Flint (who trained with the California Shakespeare Theater) bringing the nightclub floozy to life. David Campfield, a River Stage veteran who continues to turn in strong performances wherever he works, plays the young, impetuous cowboy. Scott Taylor is his wise, guitar-playing hired hand. Mikel Nalley does well as the besotted professor who realizes he’s behaving badly but can’t control himself. Richard Williams gives a fine performance as the savvy sheriff. Scott Divine, fondly recalled for many roles with the Actor’s Theatre, is vivid in his scenes as the bus driver. Sandra McCord is the middle-aged proprietress of the cafe, offering sage advice to her teenage employee. Maia McCleery, a recent high-school graduate, is just right for this part. Director Ron Adams doesn’t rush things, but he doesn’t let the pace lag either.