Don’t bother waiting at “Bus Stop” at the Gallery Players — just hit the gas and keep on going.
The string of hit shows this season by the inimitable Park Slope theater company broke down with this revival of the William Inge play about passengers on a long-distance bus ride in 1955 who spend the night in a bus stop in Kansas when a blizzard closes the highway.
It wasn’t the theatrical equivalent of a 10-car pileup, but it felt a little too much like rush-hour gridlock — it didn’t take me anywhere.
The problems are rooted in the play itself. The marooned characters are mildly appealing misfits — picture a slightly more dysfunctional Gilligan’s Island cast trapped on the prairie. There’s a professor (but he’s alcoholic). There’s a sultry nightclub singer (who goes a lot further than Ginger ever did). There’s a bullying cowboy and his sidekick (think the Skipper and his little buddy), and a small town waitresses (“… and Mary Ann!”).
The main flaw is a predictable plotline. Bo Decker (Brad Lewandowski), the young wrangler inexperienced in matters of the heart, is trying to force Cherie (Alisha Spielman), the cabaret singer, to marry him.
Along the way, he learns the hard way that you can’t make someone love you, while she learns that a husband doesn’t have to be glamorous, he can actually hail from Montana. Gee, that’s a powerful lesson.
There’s not much material here for the actors to sink their teeth into. Lewandowski and Spielman are reliable in their roles, but too sudden in the transformation of their attitudes towards each other.
The other main current was weird and pointless, frankly. Dr. Lyman (John Blaylock), the tippling academic, and Emma Duckworth (Rebecca Dealy), a teenage waitress pure as the driven snow outside the diner, have an instant rapport and captivate each other’s imaginations. But their friendship is not meant to be, because the professor has a few too many (plus, a sinister history!). He slinks back to the bus and Emma, whom Dealy plays too earnestly even for Kansas, learns almost nothing despite the obvious.
I’d buy Blaylock a drink for his superb performance as Dr. Lyman. His tone and mannerisms are sublimely tweedy and effete. He could walk into any freshman lecture hall in the country and fool every student that he was the actual professor.
My only question is why the Gallery Players chose this snorer for this year’s season. Let’s hope things get back on track with “Tommy,” the Who’s rock opera that’s next on the schedule.
Bus Stop” at Gallery Players [199 14th St., between Fourth and Fifth avenues in Park Slope, (718) 832-0617] runs March 19– 29. Tickets are $18.
©2009 Community News Group
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