What enormous fun awaits you at the Coastal Stage Production’s presentation of the four-time Tony Award nomination comedy, “Bus Stop.”
The seriously funny piece, with elements of high humor and high drama, is totally in place on stage, and completely up and running, and will continue — weekends — through June 2.
With a script by the renowned playwright William Inge, the three-act play is directed with sensitive insight and a flair for what’s funny by Luke Cleveland, with assistant director Christine Grefe, and supported by the most invested, accomplished and dedicated cast.
By the way, that group of eight is a wonderful blend of new and returning CSP actors. You will note some seasoned favorites and see some all new faces. Together, they are funny, they are serious and through it all, they will entertain and charm you, and remain with you into the evening, and well after you have left the theater.
Our involving and characteristic storyline moves right along, as we find, as the show begins, that it is March of ’55, and we are in Kansas! And what’s more, that we, in the audience, are taking in the action on stage almost as though we were experiencing it close up ... as though we are tucked away at a distant table, in this roadside diner, where all are seeking safety because of a dangerous snowstorm that threatens everyone nearby, especially those traveling on the snowy, icy highway.
Rodney Vaughn, who created the set and lighting design, offers the kind of diner that delightfully supports the play action all through the evening, as one by one, or in smallish clusters, we meet and come to know the stunning cast of eight.
The players represent two camps .... the traveling bus riders, and the diner folks, and down to a person, they are all varied and intriguing.
The flow of the show
First, there is Cherie (Julie Seibold) a nightclub singer, outfitted in a shiny dress, set off by an unfortunate fur piece. Now is the time to tell you, and just so you’ll know, she is being pursued, and appropriately frightened by the advances of a handsome cowboy, Bo (Mark Ericson). His unappreciated approach to Cherie, we realize, has been misunderstood.
Supporting Bo, and his plan, is his ranch hand and side-kick, Virgil (Gregg Steele Hepner). The two are actually anxious and have plans to gather up Cherie, whisk her away to Bo’s ranch in Montana so that the two can marry and live happily ever after. Who could have known?
A unique, kind of standout traveler, is the professorial Dr. Gerald Lyman (Travis McKineley). We find shortly that through his understated behavior and under-supported posture and positioning, that possibly, he has a drinking problem.
He also, we find, has a proclivity for appreciating and approaching, and possibly more ... bright young girls with a hunger for learning .... even about Shakespeare.
Grace ( Cheryl Graffo ), the diner owner, counts on Elna, delivered on our stage by two delightfully youthful actors who share that character on alternating productions (Brycen Ambrose and Gigi Pingree). By the way, Elna is young, smart, naïve and hopeful ... and has a particular interest in important literature. Do you see the plot thickening?
Driving the bus, as it were, is Carl (Joe Ogiony). First, we note his competence as a driver and people mover. A bit later, it is revealed that he also has a special place in his heart for Grace, the diner lady, whose husband , it turns out, left the scene years ago, and she doesn’t apparently miss him.
I’m not giving anything away when I share with you all that when Sheriff Will Masters (Brooke Pearson) enters the scene, we count on him to deal appropriately with each individual or newly committed pair, when he takes a close-up look at everyone, and the fallout from their amazing variety of complexities.
Through the evening, as I considered the flow of the show, and the distinct personalities of each of the eight, I noted, and this is probably pure Inge, that collectively, though it seemed kind of random as we met them one by one, they all shared some distinct character traits.
All were wonderfully naïve, and surprisingly open. They were likeable, and we absolutely cared for them. Though they might have been living their lives thinking about what might happen, if ... what if, when they looked carefully at their lives at this Bus Stop turning point, they realized that the “if” might have been right there in front of them all along.
Whatever the outcomes and new directions of the Bus Stop eight, I enjoyed meeting each and every one of them ... one by one, as will you.
If you go
What: “Bus Stop”
Where: Coastal Stage Productions, AMVETS, 1831 Ribaut Road, Port Royal, S.C.
When: May 24-June 2. Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m. Sundays at 2 p.m. Saturday matinees added to meet demand.
Information: www.Coastalstage.com; 843-717-2175.