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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Milwaukee Chamber's 'Bus Stop' Keeps It Moving

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William Inge's classic Bus Stop is a fun ensemble piece. It's light enough that one doesn't have to over-think it, but also deep enough to offer complexity for those interested in a bit more. The challenge for any production is to juggle the ensemble and keep the story moving. Milwaukee Chamber Theatre and UW-Parkside do an admirable job of this in a collaborative production at the Cabot Theatre.

Set in the 1950s, the play features a colorful group of people stranded in a Midwest diner during a snowstorm. The collaboration between Milwaukee Chamber and UW-Parkside has allowed for an interesting balance in the cast, with students playing the younger roles and more seasoned actors portraying authority figures. There are some really clever performances in the show. Modern audiences tend to wince at the stereotype of the naïve young girl, but Brenna Kempf does a brilliant job of bringing subtlety to the role. Dan Katula is charismatic as the small-town sheriff. Doug Jarecki's comic instincts are as sharp as ever as bus driver Carl. And Jacque Troy nicely fills the role of Grace, the woman who runs the diner.

Director Lisa Kornetsky keeps the action moving across the entire stage. Much of the play explores the nature of emotional connection. Kornetsky creates an effective pace for the subject matter, as the rhythm of the production feels both dramatic and natural.

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre and UW-Parkside's production of Bus Stop runs through April 29 at the Broadway Theatre Center's Cabot Theatre. For ticket reservations, call 414-291-7800.