This blizzard story comes with heart-warming guarantee
|Raven Theatre presents|
Review by Katy Walsh
Chicago knows from recent firsthand experience that a blizzard puts people in unexpected situations. Being snowed in together makes friends… strangers, and strangers…friends. Unable to move on from unpleasant conditions, people become physically stuck. Digging a way out doesn’t always mean a clean exit. Raven Theatre presents Bus Stop. A blizzard strands a busload at the local diner. The eclectic group of misfits fills the room with oddness. A nightclub singer tries to escape her abductor. A professor gets his drink on. An owner battles a headache. A cowboy wrangles his new filly. A driver takes advantage of the lay-over. They mix it up with a strumming guitarist, reading waitress, and the peace-keeping sheriff. The diner is serving up scrambled eggs with a side of transformation. Bus Stop breaks people at the crossroads of life.
Playwright William Inge creates homespun characters from Anywhere, USA. Inge traps them in close quarters. No place to hide from each other or themselves. Under the direction of JoAnn Montemurro, the road to self discovery is well-paced and natural. The talented cast organically embraces their personas. A staggering Jon Steinhagen (Dr. Lyman) pontificates slurred literature. Steinhagen is hilarious! A sweetly innocent Sophia Menendian (Elma) jars Steinhagen’s subtle awakening. Their chemistry charms with unexpected mutual adoration. Michael Stegall (Bo) fits a lot of personality on a little stage. A high-spirited cowboy, Stegall corrals laughs and empathy. His sidekick Mark Pracht (Virgil) intrigues with a discerning transition. Jen Short (Cherie) goes from distressed showgirl to uncertain homegirl. Bringing a lot of local character to the eatery, Kristen Williams is the wise-cracking owner, Antoine Pierre Whitfeld is the tender-hearted sheriff, and Dean LaPrairie is the smooth-talking bus driver.
Dirty linoleum, coffee percolator, day-old-doughnuts-under-glass, the vibe is pure diner from yesteryear. Scenic Designer Ray Toler uses extraordinary detail to create an ordinary look. There is a neon sign in the window and a closed/open flip-sign on the door. I swear I’ve eaten here before. Although it looks familiar, Bus Stop houses some snowbound surprises. Special attention is paid to customer satisfaction. Everyone leaves the restaurant fueled for the next leg of the journey. This blizzard story comes with a heart-warming guarantee.
Bus Stop continues through December 11th at Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are $30, and are available by phone (773-338-2177) or online at ticketturtle.com. More information at RavenTheatre.com. (Running time: Two hours, which includes one intermission)
All photos by Dean LaPrairie
behind the scenes
JoAnn Montemurro (director); Ray Toler (set designer); Diane D. Fairchild (lighting); Joelle Beranek (costumes); Andrei Onegin (tech director); Melissa Schlesinger (sound); Mary O’Dowd (props); Amanda Rozmiarek (scenic artist); Justin Castellano (master electrician); Cathy Bowren (stage manager); Dean LaPrairie (photos)