William Inge’s 1955 drama about a bus full of passengers stranded in a diner during a snowstorm is notable for two things: first, its upfront sexuality during a time when sexuality was more repressed—nearly everyone in the play has fucked, is fucking, wants to fuck or is being fucked over; and second, Inge’s gentle refusal to pass judgment on his characters. All but one make their mistakes but walk away with love and/or redemption at Bus Stop’s end. Only the character most like Inge himself is left in the cold, but even he is allowed a grace note when it stops snowing.
Like most productions at Cal State Fullerton, the work is technically proficient, with Brandy Stiles’ believably grimy set design and Eric Wenzel’s evocative lighting design framing the stage like an old post card. The understated cast, delicately directed by James R. Taulli, proves once again that CSUF has the best actors in town. Despite the distraction of age-inappropriate casting (performers playing roles written for older actors)—and the lousy fake beards that accompany those casting decisions—the entire ensemble is great, with Erik Bogh’s aggressive cowboy, Alex Reimers’ guitar-playing best friend and Valorie Curry’s lonely bar girl Cherie among the highlights.
In the end, my sole disappointment with this production is that with so many new plays available from all over the world—many of them even written for young actors—the university avoids risk by programming this community-theater staple. Classic or not, there’s such an abundance of talent on display here that I wish all this hard work had been put to more groundbreaking use.
BUS STOP, CAL STATE FULLERTON RECITAL HALL, PERFORMING ARTS CENTER, 800 N. STATE COLLEGE BLVD., FULLERTON, (714) 278-3371. THURS.-FRI., DEC. 8-9, 8 p.m.; SAT., 2 & 8 P.M.; SUN., 2 P.M. $8-$9.