There is a great production going on at Actors’ Summit. Described as local, professional, and exceptional, the current production of “Bus Stop” by William Inge is just that: locally performed in the majestic theatre that is located on the 6th floor of Greystone Hall at 103 High Street in Akron, fueled by local talent, professionally produced and directed, and the result is exceptional. Inge is a master storyteller of regular lives that survive by adjusting to and navigating what life has thrown at them. On the surface, so many lives seem to be fine, until the knots and wrinkles appear slowly. “Bus Stop,” beautifully directed by Ric Goodwin, is filled with a wonderful array of colorful characters that bear their inner linings in an attempt to acquire resolution to their own needs and dreams.
The theatre itself is stunning. The room reminds me of the House of Commons, and possesses a Masonic royalty. The thrust stage delivers a small town western diner that imbues a true sense of reality. “Bus Stop” has found a home worthy of the material. The play itself is set in the middle of a howling snowstorm, and a bus out of Kansas City pulls up at a small roadside diner. All roads are blocked, and four or five weary travelers have to take refuge until morning. Cherie, a nightclub singer, has the most to worry about. She’s being pursued by a young cowboy with all the romantic finesse of a rodeo bull. The belligerent cowhand is right behind her, ready to sling her over his shoulder and carry her, alive and kicking, all the way to Montana. As a counterpoint, other romances evolve, such as the proprietor of the cafe and the bus driver at last finding time to develop a friendship of their own, and a middle-age scholar coming to terms with himself, and a young girl who works in the café getting her first taste of romance. It is a classic character study.
The apex romance is between chanteuse Cherie (Liewie Nunez) and cowboy Bo Decker (Dean Coutris). Both actors are in top form. Nunez brings an emotional and nuanced performance that keeps you transfixed. She slowly reveals her doubts and fears, while keeping true emotions at bay, just like the hands of many of her patrons. You become emotionally invested in her happiness. Decker rides into the diner with hurricane force and quickly established a blind love Robocop with one pretty lady in his sights. He gives his character an awkward honesty and bullheadedness but then, through deft choices, unravels and grows right before our very eyes. Victories are found, not in great strides, but in little steps that culminate in being able to truly express rooted emotion. These two knock it out of the park.
Rebecca Ribley as Elma Duckworth, the young waitress, turns in a solid performance. She is so real that you want to protect her from your seat. Watching her skillful presentation of bringing naiveté to her character and navigating through the whirlwind of presented choices and yearning was incredibly enjoyable. Doug Hendel was remarkable in his interpretation of Dr. Gerald Lyman, the college philosophy professor who can’t keep a job for dubious reasons, masterfully providing a loving and likable façade that harbored a disturbing undertone of uncomfortable behavior. Elizabeth Lawson embodied Grace Hoyla, the owner of the diner, with commanding tone and diction, and a saucy side of attitude and kick. Her game of hide and seek with bus driver Carl (playfully and libidinously played by Jim Fippin) is a hoot. Alex Nine brings in western justice just right with a strong performance and establishes true authority. Bill Hoffman excels at delivering a smooth, gentle performance that guides Bo in father-like fashion, providing heartbreaking realness to the process of making choices for the greater good. You couldn’t find a better friend or a better interpretation.
The costumes were excellent, with great choices in creating the western ambiance, by MaryJo Alexander. Lighting and sound design (Kevin Rutan) were extremely effective. And the set, with authentic props and decoration, reflected a clear vision and fine execution.
The drive from Cleveland to Actors Summit is not that bad at all, and what waits for you is a great place to perform and a great place to watch quality theatre. Check it out.
Kevin Joseph Kelly
February 20 - March 9
$10-$33 Reserved Seating
Order Tickets Online
Actor's Summit at Greystone Hall (6th floor)
103 High Street