‘Bus Stop’ brings the best out in Stagehouse Theatre

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It is a dark and stormy wintery night in 1955. Eight people have taken shelter from the raging blizzard inside a quaint little hole-in-the-wall diner near the Kansas City border. Before the night is through these disparate strangers will learn a thing or two about love, friendship, and life.   

That is the premise of playwright William Inge’s 1955 dramedy “Bus Stop,” which is being staged in an amazing production by Grossmont College’s Stagehouse Theatre.

It is a dark and stormy wintery night in 1955. Eight people have taken shelter from the raging blizzard inside a quaint little hole-in-the-wall diner near the Kansas City border. Before the night is through these disparate strangers will learn a thing or two about love, friendship, and life.   

That is the premise of playwright William Inge’s 1955 dramedy “Bus Stop,” which is being staged in an amazing production by Grossmont College’s Stagehouse Theatre.

Each of the eight main characters is brought to life by a stunning array of actors and actresses.

Mayte Martinez and Frankie McCutcheon play Grace, the proprietor of the diner, and Elma, a book smart yet naïve waitress, respectively. Martinez’s droll wit and McCutcheon’s nerdy enthusiasm gives the characters a spark of life and every time they are on stage they steal the show.

Kevin Rupe plays Will, the stoic Sheriff of the small, unnamed town. He has an intimidating yet soft presence and manages to turn what could have been a stereotypical macho performance into one that is layered and charming.

Charly Montgomery plays Cherie, a nightclub chanteuse who is trying to escape her hotheaded fiancé Bo, a wealthy rancher and wannabe cowboy (played by Raymond Kazules), who she doesn’t love. 

Montgomery is a great young talent. She can play it all, from hysterical to seductive to endearing.

And not only can she act, but she can sing as well, and she gives a great, if brief, rendition of “That Old Black Magic” to rival that of Marilyn Monroe’s in the 1956 film adaptation of the play.

Meanwhile Kazules is perfect as the vain and bombastic Bo. Whenever Bo gets into one of his many fits, Kazules always stands at one corner of the stage staring off into an empty space in the audience and one can feel the anger and confusion seething in his head.

The two estranged fiancés are followed by Bo’s best friend and ranch hand Virgil, played by Isai Moises Luna. Luna gives a wonderfully understated performance and gives Virgil a quiet and ruminative wisdom that belies his young age.

Estevan Roman provides the comic relief as the perpetually horny bus driver, Carl, who has a thing for Grace. Roman is hilarious and the only bad thing about his performance is that there isn’t enough of him.

Perhaps the standout performer of them all has to be Sam McCubbin who plays Dr. Gerald Lyman, a thrice divorcee and alcoholic former college professor. McCubbin shows his incredible range as the good Doctor shifts from stuffy poetry spouting academic to flat out drunkard. When McCubbin delivers his drunken tear filled monologue about love and heartache, I was mesmerized by his performance. McCubbin has a great career ahead of him. 

Aside from the acting special mention must also be made to the gorgeous set design by Michael McKeon. 

The diner set is simply magnificent. From the giant backwards ‘DINER’ sign atop the stage, to the handsomely decorated and highly detailed set, all the stops were pulled to make it feel as authentic as possible. In fact, the stage felt so much like a living breathing diner that as I exited the theatre I felt the strongest urge to sit at the counter and order myself some coffee.

Well-acted and beautifully designed, Grossmont College’s production of “Bus Stop” is a must see. Upcoming performances will be on December 1,2,7,8, and 9 at 7:30 p.m., and Dec. 2 and 9 at 2:00 p.m.

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