Diner fare can be tasty, but it is rarely well cooked and it rarely offers much in the way of real nourishment. “Bus Stop,” a relic of 50’s drama currently on stage at the Huntington, takes place in a diner, and while it serves up some real charm from a cast brimming with charisma and comic timing, it doesn’t leave one with much to chew over.

The William Inge play, remembered by many from its film incarnation which starred Marilyn Monroe as a witless lounge singer, takes place in a Kansas suburb emblematic of small town America. A blizzard has made the roads undrivable, and so Carl the bus driver (Will LeBow) parks his passenger hauler at a favorite stop: our diner, run by Grace (Karen MacDonald), a matronly yet game waitress on whom Carl is sweet.

The diner is also staffed by Elma (Ronete Levenson), a bookish and naive high schooler who longs for sophistication. It is frequented by the upright and sturdy Will Masters (Adam LeFevre), who represents law and order as the town’s respected sheriff. Once the bus is stopped, into the diner tumbles trouble in the shapely form of Cherie (Nicole Rodenburg), a dim platinum blond who claims she’s on the run from a dangerous cowboy. Then there’s Dr. Gerald Lyman (Henry Slam), a fallen Ph.D., who quotes loudly and incessantly from great literature in the sort of faux British accent sported by baby Stewy of TV’s “Family Guy,” while swigging from a whiskey bottle.

As the Dr. sets his skeevie sites on young Elma, in stomps Bo the cowboy (Noah Bean), an unmannered young broncobuster who aims to make Cherie his wife. In tow, he brings Virgil Blessing (Stephen Lee Anderson), a stoic cowhand with a guitar, who serves as his guardian.

It’s the sort of motley crew of screwballs and stereotypes you might expect to find on an old situation comedy, and in fact, a “Bus Stop” television series ran briefly in the early 60’s, with Inge often at the typewriter. Here on stage, you’ll have to settle for more speeches and less complications. Everyone here has a back story explained with a speech or two and everyone has a tidy character arc to portray on theme of knowing when to gamble and to when to fold your hand in the game of love, before the storm clears up and the bus travels on.

Director Nicholas Martin’s staging of this light drama features such a stellar cast that it undeniably succeeds as a pleasant diversion, but I want more from a play than this. I hope the Huntington’s next venture is a little more worth running to than “Bus Stop.”

About The Author

Jason Rabin is a Blast contributing editor

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