New things are happening in the theater community. Last weekend and this coming weekend, two new groups try their wings with their first productions. Next weekend will see The Lady’s Not for Burning from Loose Cannon Productions, and last weekend Ganas Theatre Productions opened Bus Stop at the City Market.
Virgil (Jon Lambert) tries to explain Shakespeare to Bo (Nick Carpenter) in ‘Bus Stop.’
Ganas is a not-for-profit theater under the artistic direction of Shawn Whistler, and its mission is “To provide motivating and thought-provoking live theater employing the talents of the local, non-Equity artist.” Bus Stop utilizes a mixture of newcomers and people who have appeared both onstage and behind the scenes at theaters around town. The play itself, written by William Inge in the 1950s, is about a group of people who are stuck at a Kansas diner late at night, waiting for the snowed-in roads to be cleared. The players include Grace, the diner owner, her young waitress Elma and local sheriff Will. On the bus are driver Carl, professor Lyman, singer Cherie and a cowboy who is taking her back to his ranch, along with his friend Virgil. What emerges is an examination of relationships (and unrequited yearnings for relationships) between the characters: blind infatuation, covert casual sex, pedophilia, true friendships, possible love — told with humor and simple insight. The playwright presents his characters but doesn’t cast judgement on their actions, and all’s well that ends well. In short, the show is a lot of fun. Set in front of The Potato Place at the City Market, the group has a built-in set for their diner, with counter, kitchen and table seating. Actors utilize tables and areas right up into the audience. One drawback was that at times you couldn’t see what was happening, or hear it. The hum that the Market building occasionally omits presented audibility problems as well. Most of the actors overcame this issue with clearly projected voices, though Kathryn Burk as Cherie was sometimes drowned out. Ruth E. Hawkins as Grace was a hoot, a down-home, independent, slightly rough single woman making her own way through the world. Her assistant Elma, Annie Thompson, was nothing short of simple, sweet innocence, and got a priceless Romeo and Juliet balcony scene with the boozer professor, played by Gary R. Lott. Michael Chowning as the sheriff is the epitome of swaggering confidence that becomes solid dependability when duty calls. Nick Carpenter as the arrogant and hot-headed cowboy Bo deadpans his funniest moments. His is a character that doesn’t know much about life, and Carpenter’s straight delivery of some of Bo’s most ridiculous lines make Bo’s inappropriate attitudes and actions almost charming. Burk as Cherie, Bo’s romantic interest, is a lovely hick girl turned nightclub singer, and Jon Lambert as Virgil is a laid-back, easy-going character to balance out Bo’s eager youthfulness. We don’t see much of Carl, played by Dan Miller, who rounds out the cast. As a whole, the cast was spot-on. They were flexible with the surroundings and seemed relaxed with their performances — impressive since they are eye-to-eye with the audience the entire time; no separating footlights here. And all of them seemed to be having as good a time as the audience was. Bus Stop continues though June 21, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15, $10 for students and seniors. For reservations, call 797-5755.