Reviewed by Ralph Hall
A sold-out audience heartily welcomed KNOW Theatre’s production of William Inge’s play Bus Stop this past Friday night (Feb. 10). Few writers for the stage have Inge’s powerful command of the American language. With the words of four bus riders, a driver, a sheriff and two waitresses stranded in a small diner for two hours somewhere between Kansas and Montana, he gave audiences a peek into the lives and thinking of Americans in the post-war years of the 1950s — just prior to the love-hate revolution of the ’60s.
With a powerful ensemble cast that worked with and supported each other in the best ways possible, this production demanded the attention of the audience from the first word to the last. Riley Phillips very competently and professionally incorporated her own youth into creating an innocent and eager-for-life young waitress ready to take on this new world. Her character set the pace and the premise, and she did it marvelously well.
It has been suggested that the character of Dr. Gerald Lyman is the personification of the author himself. Whether this is true or not, Brendan Curtin’s realistic and thought-provoking interpretation was one of a brilliant man, seeking acceptance and love in all the wrong places while challenged with heinous addictions. The character’s runaway failures both in the past and present were stark reminders of a lifestyle yet to come for many Americans.
Lynette Daniels was the perfect mistress of ceremonies. She kept the diner and its guests in all the right places while manipulating time and others to get her own satisfaction. She and Rick Bocek provided a realistic look at individuals with simple, powerful needs existing in a changing social world, thus providing balance for the other characters.
Those familiar with the work of Michael Arcesi know that his talent is in always creating a new character that will make any production hold together, keep your attention and provide a stellar piece of work. Bus Stop was no exception! Arcesi’s sheriff, whose power and presence accepted no challenge, understood where understanding was vague and resolved life’s most difficult situations.
The lovers, Jessica Nogaret and Zac Chastain, gave the play its purpose. They kept their on again-off again relationship the center of attention. Chastain’s character balanced the innocence of youth with his ill-gotten understanding of being a “cowboy man” extremely well. Nogaret’s portrayed her character as confused, sexy and defiant — all of which worked well in this production.
Dave Merrell’s performance was perfect as the surrogate parent/friend of the lost cowboy. Inge gave him lines of understanding and of knowing when it was time to exit.
Joe Andrews turned out his second outstanding production for KNOW Theatre this season. His pacing, blocking and interpretation were all truly outstanding. The stage design, construction and lighting were exactly what this production required.
This is a play that you should not miss.
UPCOMING PERFORMANCES: 8 p.m. Feb. 16-18, Feb. 24-25; 3 p.m. Feb. 19 and 26; this Thursday (Feb. 16) is pay-what-you-can night
GENERAL ADMISSION: $20 (seniors, $15; students, $10)
KNOW Theatre is located at 74 Carroll St., Binghamton. Visit www.knowtheatre.org for more information, including how to pay by credit card (which cannot be done at the box office).