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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Noted drama ‘Bus Stop’ opens this week in Green Bay

Critic At Large

Green Bay Community Theater

Rehearsal for Green Bay Community Theater’s “Bus Stop.” (Troupe photo)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV)

Green Bay, Green Bay Community Theater will present 10 performances of William Inge’s “Bus Stop” in the troupe’s Robert Lee Brault Playhouse starting this week.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 20-21; 4 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22; 7:30 p.m. Feb. 26-28; 4 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 29; and 2 p.m. March 1. Info: gbcommunitytheater.com.

Snapshot: In the middle of a howling snowstorm, a bus out of Kansas City pulls up at a small roadside diner. All roads are blocked, and the weary travelers on board must take refuge in the diner until morning.

A nightclub singer, Cherie, has the most to worry about. She’s being physically 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, while other bus riders and diner staff have love interests of their own.

“Bus Stop” is set in the pre-women’s lib 1960s, and went from stage to screen starring Marilyn Monroe.

In the cast are Lyle Becker, Hannah DeGroot, Amara Delaruelle, Lina Green, Tim Killian, Doug Landwehr, Logan Siebert and Randy Vogels.

Directing is Dave Zochert.

An email interview with Dave Zochert:

Q. What attracted Green Bay Community Theater to this play at this time? 

A. Realizing that I don’t pick the scripts, this was the one that I most connected to. I love when I get a chance to develop my actors into the characters that they portray. The wild cowboy, the dancehall singer who has had some bad breaks, the ex-teacher with a wandering eye for young girls, the lonely diner owner who just “needs me a man” once in a while – some great stories in each of these. I like the “real people” aspect – more fun to direct, more fun to watch.

Q. What does William Inge have going for him in the script?

A. I think that he could have gone “over the top” on some of these characters. Some of them do get dramatic, but not too far out there that you would think to yourself “that would never happen.” Dialogue moves the story along pretty well.

Q. What do you like about what William Inge presents?

A. There really are some gems of wisdom in this play. We all put 6-7 weeks of practice into these. So I have seen my cast present this to me almost 30 times. It amazes me that every night, a new line hits me or the same line in a different way. Sometimes they go by fast… this piece is one to savor, line by line.

Q. What in the play from 1955 still ripples today?

A. It hits you hard the difference in the treatment of women for sure. Not unlike the “Born Yesterday” script (of a recent season), “Bus Stop” had a different dynamic between sexes. Another was the rigors of everyday life. The professor was pontificating on man’s ability to Love, and he put forth the thought that maybe “life will continue to become so terrifyingly complex” that he will lose the ability to be in a true relationship – my thought was “too complex? in 1955?” If they could have only known 65 years later – Some things remain the same…

Side note: This production has interlacing touches with Evergreen Productions’ “Arsenic and Old Lace,” which opened and continues to Feb. 22 in Webb Theatre of St. Norbert College. Dave Zochert says:

“Sandy (Zochert, his wife) is one of the leads in Evergreen’s ‘Arsenic and Old Lace.’ Thirty years ago, she played the ingenue for that play; now she’s one of the poisoner aunts. We are running the play only one week apart, so our plays will intersect for a weekend in February.

“Sandy is the set dresser for my play, Patricia Grimm, my production coordinator and CT’s theater manager, is dressing the Evergreen set.  

Craig Berken, a friend of mine and fellow United Methodist parishioner, is directing ‘Arsenic and Old Lace,’ and I’m directing ‘Bus Stop.’

“Craig’s co-worker in real life, Lina Green, is in my play ‘Bus Stop.’

“I cast a young woman for the Marilyn Monroe part in my play named Hanna DeGroot.  Her brother tried out for ‘Bus Stop’ as well – tryouts were the same two days. I didn’t cast the brother – they would have had to kiss on stage anyway, and that would be weird. Craig cast the brother as Mortimer in his play.”

The Zocherts will be seeing each other’s play as schedules allow.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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