Five travelers on a bus get stuck during a snowstorm at a diner near Kansas City, Missouri, bringing romantic drama along with them in the William Inge play “Bus Stop.”
The Manhattan Beach Community Church Theater production of “Bus Stop” opens Friday, Oct. 11, with additional performances on Oct. 12, 13, 18, 19 and 20.
Dan Adams, the show's artistic director and who also plays Dr. Lyman, said “But Stop” was a perfect ensemble piece for their theater and a production not performed often. “Bus Stop” was also chosen because he felt the 1956 film version, starring Marilyn Monroe and Don Murray, was disappointing.
“They changed the script so much to make it a Marilyn Monroe vehicle that they cut some of the main characters completely out and diluted the others just to give her more screen time,” Adams said. “The script is so good I wanted everyone to see it.”
Director Bob Manning said there's more than meets the eye when it comes to “Bus Stop.”
“I thought it would be pretty easy... one set, an ensemble... but as we got into rehearsal I started to see the depth of the characters,” Manning said.
Victoria Bailer Alfvin plays the diner owner, Grace Hoylard, on the bus route when the bus arrives early in the morning when there's a blizzard.
“I play her cheery, but I think the underlying is she's not a happy woman,” Alfvin said. “I don't she really saw herself as running a diner at this bus stop. It's not a big town... she's lonely. She lives above the diner and it's her whole life and I think she didn't consider that this was the way her life was going to turn out.”
Tracey Dye plays Elma Duckworth, the diner's waitress who is a “very intelligent, but very naive high school girl.”
“She sees thing through a prism of innocence and optimism and can be kind of oblivious to the darker, more unseemly things going on around her,” Dye said.
Bo Decker is a “cowboy fresh off the farm” who is “boisterous and untamed,” according to Shawn Plunkett, who has eyes for an aspiring singer, Cherie, to be his bride.
“The challenge is playing young and remembering being young and dumb... being old and dumb is different, that's easy,” Plunkett said. “But being young and dumb and just trying to think of a lot of the things that happened to me, happening for the first time in my life, thinking about those experiences but showing those for the first time, experiencing for the first time on stage, that's an interesting thing to try to do.”
Cherie, played by Jessica Lombardozzi, is “confused what she wants in life” even though she has ambitions as a singer.
“Cherie is from the Ozarks, so she's from a little town, and she has a lot of brothers and sisters, she kind of took care of them pretty much her whole life,” Lombardozzi said. “So when she was finally old enough, she got out and wanted to follow her dreams.”
Dan Adams plays Dr. Gerald Lyman, an “alcoholic professor who goes through a catharsis.”
“I start out as a happy drunk and during the course of the play as I continue to drink I become a philosophical drunk, then a morose despondent drunk, and then back to a happier drunk,” Adams said.
For more than six decades, the Manhattan Beach Community Church has attracted professional and fledgling actors to its stage. While most of the cast of “But Stop” are veterans, Plunkett, Dye and Lombardozzi are new to MBCC.
Plunkett called everyone “nice and welcoming.”
“It's been a real easy time to get into character and get to work because it didn't feel like you're an outsider coming in,” Plunkett said.
Dye recently moved to California and “Bus Stop” was her first audition here.
“Everybody works so hard.. everybody has been a dream to work with,” Dye said. “It's kind of special times 10, because it's my first show and it's also such a good one.”
Also in the cast is Chris O'Connor as Carl the bus driver, Larry Moreno as cowboy Virgil Blessing and Frank Pepito as Sheriff Will Masters.
Tickets for a pre-theater event on Saturday, Oct. 12, at 6 p.m., prior to the 8 p.m. performance, include a light buffet, desserts wine and live entertainment. Tickets, which are $40, for that event can be purchased by calling (310) 714-4038.
For more information about tickets and show times, visit mbccucc.org.