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Nonetheless, this classic deserves attention. Playwrights have always struggled with the problem of finding plausible settings outside the family home for dramatic conflict. Here Inge, in setting his play in a roadside diner, established a high standard for setting strangers behind locked doors and letting them go at each other. Although the play lacks a character as memorable as, say, Blanche Dubois, it does depict the type of castaways often found in the later plays of Tennessee Williams, such as in Night of the Iguana.
Jill Andre and her able cast make the little Kansas diner come alive. Elma (Nicole Dalton) and Grace (Gameela Wright) do their best to make visitors welcome as they wait for the next bus out of town. On this particular day, the roads are snowed in, so when the bus in from Kansas City makes its stop, it cannot proceed. The passengers take their places about the diner. A cowboy named Bo (Don Draxler) has dragged Cherie (a small town nightclub singer) on to the bus with him in the hopes of taking her back to his ranch in Montana. A one-night stand has had far greater meaning to him than to her, so Cherie seeks the protection of the local sheriff (Jeff Hughes) who has to get physical to keep the cowboy in check.
Meanwhile, Dr. Lyman (J.M. McDonough), a pretentious windbag with a taste for whiskey and young girls, starts working his charms on the under aged Elma. Played well by McDonough, this sad character is treated by Inge with candor and sympathy. We at once see him as a predator and as a man victim of his own perverse wisdom. Elma, to Inge's credit, is depicted realistically as an eager participant rather than as the innocent victim. Dr. Lyman is interesting, too, for his rather profound drunken utterances on the subject of love.
The leads, Tara Carnes and Don Draxler, take some getting use to. At first, she seems a bit too old for the part of the youthful singer, while he seems too frisky. Gradually, however, one is won over by their powerful performances. Tara, whatever her age, is able to show finally why she falls for the simple cowboy who insists he loves her. Draxler, a dynamic player, seems at first too boyish, but finally persuades us that he knows what he wants and why.
Equally impressive are the bus driver (Jerry Rago) and Bo's sidekick Virgil (Eric Christie). Both are very effective in their low-key performances, which suit the parts and add enormously to creating an atmosphere of realism. Rago helps to bring the temperature down just when it is needed, while Christie makes Virgil an almost tragic loner. Jeff Hughes, it should be mentioned, brings considerable charm to his role of Will the sheriff and convinces us from the beginning that he won't let things get too out of hand.
The T. Schreiber Studio again proves as it did with its production of The Wonder that showcase productions needn't insult the material to show off its actors. Here Inge gets a respectful airing and stands the test of time.
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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