Bus Stop | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

BUS STOP, American Theater Company. On the surface, William Inge's 1955 comedy, about the intersection of eight lives at a rural Missouri bus stop, is fairly conventional. It's driven by a standard plot device: an external force--in this case, a raging blizzard--traps a group of disparate individuals together under one roof. The characters, though not without their individual charms, are cliched. And the play's resolution is horribly sentimental, barely a notch above a good dime-store romance.

But despite its transparent theatrical conventions, the play is full of depth. Its lust, passion, and selfishness aren't immediately obvious, however, which makes it easy to stage Bus Stop without scratching the surface. And that's precisely what the American Theater Company does, ignoring the play's depths, draining it of the gripping sexual tension it should have and rejecting the inherent ugliness of all the characters.

To be fair, director Cecilie D. Keenan does well with the play's comic side, drawing Inge's sharp, lucid dialogue to the forefront and exploiting the full comic potential of the characters' flaws and eccentricities. All eight actors--especially Amy Landecker as restaurant proprietor Grace and Cedric Young as soft-spoken sheriff Will--add their own dimensions to Inge's rustic midwestern stereotypes. And Scott Cooper's highly detailed set is a veritable treasure trove of late-50s Americana. But Keenan never fully explores the potential of Cooper's expansive set, and her sluggish pacing ultimately robs the play of its momentum.

--Nick Green

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