Vida Djaghouri

On Thursday, the Glendale College Theatre Arts Department opened the season with the William Inge’s 1955 play, “Bus Stop.”

According to Inge, “Bus Stop” is “a
composite picture of varying kinds of love, ranging from the innocent to the depraved.” The play takes place in a rural town in Kansas in the 1950s. Grace, the owner of a diner, along with her helper, Elma, and the town sheriff, Will, are keeping the diner open for a late-night busload of passengers who will have to stay there because of a snowstorm.

After the bus arrives, the first to enter is Cherie, a chanteuse, looking for a place to hide from a lovesick cowboy named Bo, who has apparently kidnapped her and wants to marry her. Soon after, the rest of the passengers enter, including Bo, the cowboy, Virgil, his right-hand man, and Dr. Lyman, a tipsy and verbose professor. This array of such colorful characters creates a chemistry that shines throughout the plot, in which the eight weary travelers stuck on the highway of life get to know a little more about themselves and each other.

“It’s definitely a story about human qualities and humanity,” said Jeanette Farr, the director of the play. “It’s a nice sweet little piece about showing our vulnerability to other people that is somewhat rare today because we’re all very guarded.” This is Farr’s directorial debut at Glendale College.

Each member of the cast of “Bus Stop” vividly portrays a complex character who receives his or her turn in the spotlight. A professor who has a physical and emotional breakdown, performed by Joe Thomas, and the seemingly tough Bo (Travis Riner) and the all-seeing sheriff (Ryan Robbins) who find themselves in an intense brawl are among the acting highlights.

About the young actors, Tiffany Brain, who plays Elma, the bright-eyed bookworm who longs for love, says “I think this is the best cast I’ve been in chemistry-wise. We’ve all gotten along very well. We’ve really been looking forward to it. Some of us have been waiting for this since October.”
The set designed by Chris Krambo presents a vivid depiction of a ’50s world down to a gleaming diner counter that is so real “you could almost order a hamburger out of it,” said Royce Herron, the production’s costume designer. It is precise even down to a rotary phone hanging on the wall.

The costumes, as designed by Herron, also contribute to the setting. The actors are clad in articles of ’50s garb from head to toe, including cowboy hats, pink waitress uniforms, tweed suits, and even a sparkling showgirl costume draped on Brittany Grob in her portrayal of Cherie the chanteuse.
The lighting design is by Guido Girardi.
Music too plays a big role in this production. Contributing to the feel and ambience is a side stage designed to be a studio from which live performers play and sing ’50s songs that the characters are listening to on the radio on the set.

According to Farr, “It’s nice to be living in this world for a while as a director and as a cast. It lifts you up and it’s fun.”
Although the Americana piece is lighthearted and set in a time and place very different from the diverse Glendale community, it can still speak to its audience. The characters demonstrate that, in reality, appearances account for very little.

“I think that there’s a lot of messages that are universal in the show about love and how friendships can be made through diversity,” said Chris Beltran, who plays Virgil the cowboy. “I think that’s important. I wish people at GCC did that more. Maybe this show will help them.”

Bus Stop” will be performed for two consecutive weekends at the GCC Mainstage Auditorium: Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 for general admission, $6 for students and seniors and $4 for children and groups of 10 or more. Tickets are available at the box office or by reservation by contacting the Theatre Arts Department at (818) 240-1000, ext. 5618.