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Theater review: ‘Bus Stop,’ dir. Malika Oyetimein and Sean Ryan

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I always think of the shows hosted by UW School of Drama as the big leagues of theater. Although I am unfamiliar with what constitutes success in the realm of theater, making it on stage at the Floyd and Delores Jones Playhouse or Meany Hall seems like a sure indication of someone’s talent. This show lives up the reputation, and this lighthearted comedy is certainly no joke. The cast consists of the entire first-year class of the Professional Actor Training Program, but the talent and storytelling evident in the show suggests the players have years of experience and expertise.

First-year directors Malika Oyetimein and Sean Ryan will surely delight with this Broadway revival of “Bus Stop” with its convincing actors and simple set that captures the quaint setting of the South. Ryan directs the first act and Oyetimein the second and third, creating the challenge of bringing two different visions together seamlessly.

The show, although a bit slower in pace, is always charming. It brings the audience an authentic slice of life in the South during the 1950s. The relatable characters and simple plot charms the audience and reminds them of a simpler time.

The play drops the audience off in a diner 30 miles west of Kansas City. Six ostensibly dissimilar characters are brought together because of a snowstorm closing the roads. First we meet Elma Duckworth (Tatiana Pavela), an innocent romantic who faithfully follows the advice and guidance of diner owner Grace Hoylard (Jess Moss). Their dynamic is affectionate and heartwarming, as Elma represents youth and naivete whereas Grace is set in her ways and is accustomed to people coming and going from her life. 

The root of the play is a love story featuring young ranch owner Bo Decker (AJ Friday). You may remember Friday as Sebastian from a previous UW School of Drama production of “Twelfth Night.” His performance in “Bus Stop” was equally charming and engaging, and his evident love for Cherie (Hazel Lozano) left me smitten, even though his methods don’t exactly fit the bill of typical Southern charm. The push and pull between these characters left the audience spellbound.

The characters’ malleability becomes evident after the intermission. Just when you think that the actors are one-note, they seamlessly adopt another persona as if it were their own. You’ll have to see who gets the last word. Perhaps the most representative of this was Lozano, who can move from innocent schoolgirl to nightclub singer in the blink of an act.

The dynamics among characters are realistic and convincing, and I felt like I could practically taste the black coffee and slightly stale donuts as I eavesdropped on the conversations among these people brought together by fate.

“Bus Stop” runs April 29 through May 3 at the Jones Playhouse on 4045 University Way NE. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. There will a post-show talk April 30. Student tickets are $10 and UW employee tickets are $13. Regular admission tickets are $18.

The verdict: Attendees will certainly find solace from the brewing snowstorm with this heartwarming comedy and characters that are sure to delight with their humor and storytelling.


Reach writer Aleenah Ansari at Twitter: @aleenah_ansari

(1) comment

In the third-to-last paragraph Tatiana Pavela was misidentifed as Hazel Lozano. It is Pavela who plays both Elma, the schoolgirl, and Cherie, the singer.

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