Barksdale Hanover Tavern's production of “Bus Stop” has the makings of a great show. William Inge's play takes place in 1955 at a bus stop and diner about 20 miles outside of Kansas City during a freak spring snowstorm. Four passengers and the bus driver must wait it out at Terrie Powers' and David Powers' authentic recreation of a middle-of-nowhere diner until the highway is clear enough to pass through.
It is in the opening scene where the first of the nagging problems become apparent. A game of ”What is wrong with this picture?” begins for the remainder of the show. Sliced bagels in the doughnut display, Elma's pierced earrings, men from Montana with Southern accents, Dr. Lyman's long hair, Cherie's lack of appropriate 1950s undergarments, no pie — although it is mentioned several times in the script — are but a few examples of the inattention to detail.
Director Amy Berlin makes some excellent choices, but her decision to make Cherie (Alia Bisharat), the cheap night club singer and slut, tender and innocent rather than sweet and tartish, throws off the necessary balance between Cherie and Bo's (Jonathan Conyers) romance Although Bisharat and Conyers put in good performances, there is no chemistry between them, further undermining the power of the dynamic. Christopher Dunn's learned Dr. Lyman comes off as simply slimy under Berlin's direction, rather than the charmer he needs to be to tempt the young Elma.
On the flip side, the casting of Emily Bradner, a senior at Appomattox Regional Governor's School, is a stroke of genius. Bradner brings a wonderful realism and authentic sensibility to the role promising good things in the future. But best of all is Eric Williams' quiet, thoughtful Virgil Blessing. He brings a necessary balancing peace to the stage as this tall, cool drink of water, showing the characters and the audience what it means to be real.
Richmond is currently blessed with many great theater choices. It would be best to get off on other stops first and let this one idle for a while.
“Bus Stop” runs on selected dates through Jan. 10 at Barksdale Hanover Tavern, 13181 Hanover Courthouse Road. For information call 282-2620 or go to www.barksdalerichmond.org.