GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV)
Hmm – love… desire…
What are they?
Playwright William Inge gave them a shot in his play “Bus Stop,” which is somewhat famous for being famous because of Marilyn Monroe in the movie version. But forget her. She doesn’t count in the well put together Green Bay Community Theater production. Love and desire do.
They are the same as they were in 1956, when the play came out. The play is a period piece today, notably in its name-dropping of stars of the era. An interesting one is Hildegarde, who – holy cow! – went from New Holstein, Wisconsin, to international fame… and now to the backburner of what it means to be a chanteuse.
Cherie of the story yearns for Hildegarde-like luster. Cherie is a just a nightclub singer. And now she’s in a pickle:
Some cowboy has hauled her onto a bus with the intent of marrying her and taking her to his ranch in Montana… and the bus has been caught in a snowstorm in Kansas and forced to pull over to a bus stop café.
By the time the bus can get going again, William Inge has explored the lives and hopes and desires of the passengers, the café owner, her waitress and the town sheriff.
Heaviest in the hormones is Bo Decker, the young stud of a cowboy, a bull in the china shop of romance. Bo Decker is comically offensive in his cave-man kind of pursuit of Cherie.
Then there is the professor type, Dr. Gerald Lyman, who wheedles (influences and entices with soft words and flattery) young waitress Elma, who is eager to be loved.
In its way, “Bus Stop” is engaging. The play has an odd structure; it seems to be naturalistic in the way characters interact, but their byplay is like a series of blackout vignettes – not the way real life happens.
Veteran director Dave Zochert tunes his cast into the characters, each of which has plenty to offer.
Hannah DeGroot massages the role of Cherie, so big on hope, so little on talent, sensitive and alluring and dumb/smart. That’s quite a package, and Hannah DeGroot is convincing.
Logan Siebert is especially convincing when rodeo-wranglin’ Bo Decker arrives like an avalanche in cowboy boots. He is a seemingly irresistible force and immovable object. The Bo-Cherie stuff is quite the rodeo ride.
Doug Landwehr, is particularly in the groove as Dr. Gerald Lyman, who pours lines from poems and Shakespeare like honey. The aging “gentleman” likes girls, and Doug Landwehr finesses his way around the professor’s shifty aura with great skill.
Woven throughout this mini-saga are these other important roles, played with care and many nice touches:
Lyle Becker as Virgil, a master of diplomacy with the wild Bo; Amara Delaruelle as Elma, the waitress eager to experience love; Lina Green as Grace, the philosophical and resourceful operator of the café; Tim Killian, as Will, the sheriff with some real “cases” on his hand in the people in the café; and Randy Vogels as Carl, the bus driver who finds convenience in the forced stop.
Among little touches that add to the ambiance of the smartly built set are snowflakes that fall outside the window and doors that creak and wind that howls with they are opened.
And – in keeping with the café’ atmosphere – free donuts and coffee are served at intermission.
Creative: Playwright: William Inge; director – Dave Zochert; assistant director – David Burke; Ali Weaver – stage manager; production coordinator – Patricia Grimm; master carpenter – Noah Villarreal; light/sound designer – Kaitlin Honkanen; costume designer – Judy Patefield; set dressing designer – Sandy Zochert; props designer – Karen Konshak; hair and make-up designer – Jackie Ploor; floor managers – Hailie Gagnon, Robert Gagnon
Cherie – Hannah DeGroot
Bo Decker – Logan Siebert
Grace – Lina Green
Elma Duckworth – Amara Delaruelle
Virgil Blessing – Lyle Becker
Will Masters – Tim Killian
Dr. Gerald Lyman – Doug Landwehr
Carl – Randy Vogels
Running time: Two hours
Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 21; 4 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22; 7:30 p.m. Feb. 26-28; 4 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 29; 2 p.m. March 1
NEXT: “Things My Mother Taught Me” by Katherine DiSavino, April 16-18, 22.26.
THE VENUE: Green Bay Community Theater is one of the few community theaters that owns its performance space – and rehearsal space under the same roof. Stability is a big benefit. A landmark on Green Bay’s west side, the 193-seat Robert Lee Brault Playhouse features elements of an earlier time as a church, built in 1854 (the current backstage dressing room), 1895 (auditorium) and 1911 (today’s Community Room). The most obvious remnants are the church’s peaked side-wall windows with stained glass that is covered. High-up triangular windows still contain stained glass, and their patterns can be seen playing on sunny days when the troupe has matinees. The auditorium includes a 30 by 23-foot open-end stage with no stage curtain. The troupe has remodeled some portions of the building with medieval touches, but the seating area retains elements of a church. The theater includes wooden arches with decorative geometric designs on the ends and exposed beams in the sharply angled ceiling. The stage front consists of woodwork of repeated arches that looks to be repurposed wainscoting from other parts of the building. The troupe owns the building, which became its home in 1966. The Community Room serves as a gathering space for audiences prior to a performance and at intermission and for board and other internal meetings.
THE PERSON: Larger-than-life personality Robert Lee Brault was a longtime Green Bay Community Theater actor, director, scenic designer and managing director. He and his wife, Rita Brault, were mainstays from the time the troupe performed at various locations through the purchase of the present playhouse. Bob Brault died Nov. 1, 2015, in Florida at age 88. The troupe has established a special programming and education fund in his name.