What happens when a snowstorm blows in and four quirky passengers and one sexually charged bus driver are forced to make an unexpected stop at a diner? According to Raleigh Little Theatre’s charming production of “Bus Stop,” William Inge’s slice-of-life circa 1955 comedy, the answer is “a lot.” During the wee morning hours, each character scrambles desperately to make a connection and to escape from the encroaching loneliness that they all share. While the play is sometimes overly chaotic and silly, rich characters and the honest, bittersweet ending make it worthwhile.
While there are some notable weak links in the show’s cast, Connie Di Grazia’s Grace, the hardened owner of the diner, is not one of them. Though she doesn’t have much time on stage—Grace spends much of her time having offstage relations with hilarious bus driver Carl (David Klionsky)— Di Grazia lends charm and believability to each of her scenes. Jonathan Lowry’s sweet-but-sad portrayal of Virgil Blessing is also notable; he delivers his last few emotional scenes expertly. And Katie Scofield steals the show with her sexy, husky-voiced rendition of Cherie, a less-than-pure lounge singer who has unwillingly become the love interest of dimwitted good ol’ boy Bo Decker (Brian Hollingsworth).
An impressive diner set, designed by Thomas Mauney, lends a touch of realism to the entire production, and the sound effects, which range from sizzling ham and eggs to whistling wind, add to the effect. The first and third acts are the most entertaining. The second, which includes an over-the-top attempt at a floor show, lags on pointlessly, but it’s all worth it for the unexpectedly dark conclusion. While Inge’s play might be showing its age around the edges, many of the themes are still relevant today, and RLT does a good job of breathing new life into the piece.