Eclipse Theatre’s year of Inge continues with a poignant Bus Stop. | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Eclipse Theatre’s year of Inge continues with a poignant Bus Stop

Strangers stranded in a cafe are forced to reexamine their lives.

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Scott Dray

Eclipse Theatre Company continues its season dedicated to the work of William Inge with this 1955 play set in a Kansas bus-stop cafe during a blizzard. A chanteuse tries to evade the advances of a lovestruck cowboy before succumbing, the diner's proprietress disappears for a tryst with the bus driver, and a young waitress is charmed by the erudite blather of a soused former professor. The setting and light design evoke the midcentury melancholy of a Hopper painting, but references to Dante's Inferno and a recitation from Romeo and Juliet hint that Inge was after bigger game.

Each of the main characters is thwarted or frustrated in one way or another, and the bus stop, like purgatory, is a waiting room where they can plumb the depths of their frustrations as well as dream of escape routes. Being waylaid forces them to look deeper within themselves than they might in their everyday lives.

The cowboy gets the girl in the end and the old lech thinks better of seducing the young waitress, but there's no happy ending because it's clear that though everyone may have made the right decision today, there's no guarantee it will stick tomorrow. The cowboy's sidekick, Virgil—another Dante reference—is left alone at the diner. They're closing for the night and he can't stay there to wait for the next bus out of town. He doesn't know where he'll go next or what will become of him, and neither do we. Steve Scott directed.   v


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