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Bus Stop

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The setting for William Inge’s 1955 play, Bus Stop, is a roadside diner 25 miles outside Kansas City, Kansas. A treacherous snowstorm has blanketed the thoroughfares, preventing all highway travel — halting the bus on which four passengers are being transported westward. They find shelter and warmth in the apparently benign coffee shop/bus stop, owned by the middle-aged divorcee, Grace Hoylard, who employees a bright but naive high school girl, Elma Duckworth. The county sheriff, Will Masters, is a regular presence at the diner, and the bus driver, Carl, takes occasional layovers at this stop.

In this anomalous weather situation, however, all of those onboard the bus must disembark in to diner. We meet the enigmatic, hard-drinking professor, Dr. Gerald Lyman, who takes a particular interest in young Elma. We are alarmed when tawdry, but sexy, self-declared chanteuse, Cherie, rushes in to the diner alleging that she’s been abducted by a cowboy.  After further exposition — learning of Grace’s yearning for some male intimacy (Carl will do); Elma’s high scholastic achievement; Dr. Lyman’s propensity for pontification; and Cherie’s impoverished upbringing — we encounter an aged Virgil Blessing, a Montana ranch hand, and the cowboy, Bo Decker, who at the age of 21 owns the Montana ranch where Virgil works.

The Broadway premier of this romantic dramedy took place in March of 1955, ran for 478 performances, and won four Tony Awards, including the top trophy for Best Play. Seeing Theatre 40’s production of Bus Stop demonstrates why this mid-century conceit is worthy of such accolades; it’s heartfelt, heartwarming, and full of deceptively modest midwestern charm.

Directed by Anne Hearn Tobolowsky with an astute sensibility for the longing of Inge’s characters, the simple plot is made as clear as a starry night following a heavy snow. Adding authenticity to the proceedings are Jeff G. Rack’s period-precise set design, Michele Young’s timeless costumes, and the lighting motif designed by Brandon Baruch, which evokes the florescence of diner lights and the dark chill of an inclement night. Plus, there’s the added delight of Joe “Sloe” Slawinski’s original music and sound design.

The high quality direction and stagecraft immerses us in a showcase that highlights the skills of this ensemble, and unlike the Marilyn Monroe movie of the same title, this Bus Stop is, indeed, an ensemble effort undertaken by a most capable cast.

As Virgil, Gary Ballard is wise and worn; gentle and caring. As Bo, Nico Boles plays the braggadocio of this unworldly cowboy with élan, but the authenticity and neediness of this character becomes naturally and credibly revealed through the sincerity and commitment Boles embodies in his portrayal of this character. Carl is slyly and humorously characterized by David Datz, as is Michelle Schultz’s portrait of Grace.

Will Masters becomes a model of fairness and justice as played by Shawn Savage. And Dr. Lyman is a tragic parody of a downtrodden academician fueled by alcohol as he runs from his past and hides from the present. Mani Yarosh is sweet and endearing as the woman-child Elma. Kaitlin Huwe is stunning as the cheapishly endearing chanteuse, Cherie; we empathize with her and understand that she is a victim of her ignorance and misunderstandings of love and life.

This Bus Stop is a must stop for theatergoers.

Bus Stop is at Theatre 40, in the Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 South Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills. Plays until December 16, Thursday thru Saturday at 8 p.m. Sunday 2 p.m. Also, Monday 8 p.m. (December 3 and 10).  Call (310) 364-0535; for online ticketing and further information visit Theatre 40 - Beverly Hills’ Award-Winning Professional Theatre Company

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.