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Jordan Hornstein as Carl and Binnie Ritchie Holum as Grace.
Jordan Hornstein as Carl and Binnie Ritchie Holum as Grace.

Theatre Review: "Bus Stop" at Pendragon Theatre

Bus Stop is running in repertory at Pendragon Theatre in Saranac Lake through September 12. Resident theatre critic Connie Meng was at a recent performance and has this review.

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Connie Meng
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BUS STOP by William Inge, written in 1955, has certainly not dated.  Inge's plays, among them PICNIC and COME BACK, LITTLE SHEBA, examine human nature in small town America, and that doesn't seem to change.  BUS STOP, set in a diner in rural Kansas during a blizzard, is structured largely as a series of two-person conversations between three locals, the bus driver and his four stranded passengers.  Inge has an ear for the vernacular and also a good sense of humor, evident when the local Sheriff admonishes the young cowboy by saying, "I stole horses instead of women.  You can sell horses."

Kent Streed has designed a very workable realistic cafe with three tables and a U-shaped counter enclosing a practical kitchen that provides a large and varied playing space.  My companion said it needed a bigger window, but it looked fine to me.  Mr. Streed's costumes are also good, especially Cherie's nightclub dress. 

The opening music and that between scenes help establish the atmosphere and period.  The subtle sound of the blizzard is effective, as is Dave B. Zwierankin's lighting.

The cast is generally good and well balanced.  As Grace, the cafe owner, Binnie Ritchie Holum gives a good performance.  Her believability only slips during her overly childish enthusiasm toward the fight.  As Carl, the bus driver, Jordan Hornstein seems a bit urban for the role, especially his speech pattern.

In an excellent performance, Scott Eichholz exerts a calming and stabilizing influence as Will, the Sheriff.  As Virgil, Bo's sidekick, Chris B. Clarke gives a solid performance. He's very good in the final scene and makes a perfectly timed and moving exit.

As Bo, the naive cowboy, Brandon Patterson's performance grew on me as he began to mature.  He seems stronger and more comfortable in Act II.  Donna Moschek as Cherie sings what is possibly the worst version ever of "Someone to Watch over Me."  It's too bad to be believable and becomes funny instead of revealing her vulnerability and touching effort to be a glamorous singer.  Otherwise her performance is very good and nicely nuanced.

As the dubious Shakespeare-quoting whiskey-nipping Professor, Christopher Mc Govern does a fine job in a layered performance.  He lets us see not only the character flaws, but also the man he could have been.  Clare Paulson makes an absolutely endearing and thoroughly believable Elma.  I found in my notes I'd written "Elma - good actress" three times.  Her farewell scene with the Professor is perhaps the strongest in the production.  It's certainly the most touching.

Artistic Director Susan Neal has done a fine job of staging and directing this unclassifiable play.  BUS STOP is part gentle comedy, part small tragedies and wholly human.  This is a good evening of theatre and a solid production of an American classic.

On a scale of one to five the Pendragon Theatre production of BUS STOP gets four and one third pine trees.  For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng.

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