Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
Also see Sheridan's review of Alice in Wonderland
Last night, I watched a play set in a Kansas bus stop in the middle of a late-night snowstorm, but there was no lightning, no electricity in the air. Because all that Donner and Blitzen was on the stage in a wonderful new production of Bus Stop by William Inge, which opened in Santa Fe on January 19. I've always been a sucker for a good Inge play: every playwright should study his play construction, how he draws us into his characters' hearts and minds with only a few introductory lines of dialogue. Productions of Inge's workPicnic, Come Back, Little Sheba, among othersare always advantaged by casting and direction that respects the humanity of his characters.
Adobe Rose Theatre's rendering of this sweet Valentine to young, passion-driven love (as well as serving as a veritable treatise on all the other kinds of love that the human animal is capable of embracing) is enhanced immeasurably by strong performances from each member of this cohesive ensemble, which includes both stage veterans and one incredibly talented newcomer to the stage. Jessica Haring, whose portrayal of the paradoxical Cheriean innocent with a "past"accomplished the near impossible for me on opening night: she removed all vestiges of Marilyn Monroe (who had played Cherie in the film adaptation) and gave me a brand new, even more empathetic Cherie for whom to cheer.
Melissa Chambers is at her sassy and brassy best as diner owner Grace, and Marika Sayers owns every moment of her performance as the sweetly ingenuous night waitress Elma. Much of the electricity that crackles on the stage belongs to Tyler Nunez as the love-hungry cowboy Bo. The quartet of older male characters played by Todd Anderson, Kent Kirkpatrick, Ruben Muller, and John Warner Widell fills out the ensemble with fine interpretations that each alone could carry the play.
Staci Robbins' skillful direction makes for several galvanic moments, even as she attends the quiet frissons of people simply listening to one another's storiesstories that illuminate different aspects of the fragile human condition. The design elements are perfectly rendered; I love Gene Mederos' crisp set, Skip Rapoport's venue-appropriate lighting design, and Talia Pura's decision not to go too over the top with fashions from a decadethe 1950sthat had a reputation for calling far too much kitschy attention to itself.
A word, as well, about ART. What a nice venue for playmaking! Maureen and Bruce McKenna, in bringing to life their dream of offering good, professional theatre to a town which often cedes the artistic field to Bel Canto and Santa Clara pottery, has constructed one gem of a theater space, with ample parking, popcorn and cupcakes to boot. My kind of theater.
Bus Stop is being performed at the Adobe Rose Theatre, 1213B Parkway Drive, Santa Fe. Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 7:30, Sundays at 3:00. Through February 5, 2017. Info at www.adoberosetheatre.org or 505-629-8688. The running time is about two hours, including one intermission.