From Avenue “Q” to High Street in Alameda, two great shows for adults are awaiting your perusal in this week’s reviews and upcoming news!

Bus driver, Carl (Dave Roberts) chats up diner owner, Grace (Cynthia Roberts) in Alterena Theater’s production of William Inges’ BUS STOP!

This week I had the good fortune to take a little drive over to Alameda and see a terrific show with a great cast, in an excellent little theatre, the Altarena Playhouse. I have seen William Inge’s heartwarming story of finding love in all the wrong places, “Bus Stop”, many times over the years and I thoroughly enjoyed director Michael Ryken’s selection of acting talent and his direction of this particular production.

“Bus Stop” is a tightly woven story of several people who encounter a personal crossroads, yielding up to the audience, their personal stories, their trials, their innocence, their lack of innocence, all on a cold stormy night.

These stories focus first on an upbeat but lonely woman in her mid- thirties to early forties who owns this bus stop restaurant, Grace (played by Cynthia Roberts) and a sweet, innocent, young high school-aged waitress, Elma (played by Hanna Knapp), who works the late shift with her. Grace is married, but her husband is on the road so much of the time that one would hardly suspect that she is married. Grace admits to Elma that when she and her husband are together, they fight so much that she almost wishes they weren’t. In fact, Grace indicates that while she might miss certain aspects of her relationship (the sexual part), making love doesn’t always make for happiness or resolve loneliness. She says that she often goes to bed sick of being left alone, but admits that even when her husband is at home, she is often just as lonely! One gets the definite impression that at times, she kind-of-likes it this way!

The story begins around 1 o’clock in the morning, in a little bus stop and roadside diner, about 30 miles west of Kansas City, near the Kansas and Missouri state line. There is a terrible winter storm brewing outside and Elma wonders, now that the phone lines are apparently down, whether the Topeka Kansas bound bus coming through from Kansas City, Missouri, is going to arrive on time and will it be able to continue on from this point on the road.

Before the bus finally pulls in, the local Sheriff, Will Masters (Charles Lewis III), drops in and informs Grace that she is to tell the bus driver, Carl, that the road is closed temporarily between this roadside stop and Topeka, and that the driver will have to hold everybody here until the roads are cleared.

When the bus does arrive, it disgorges several passengers, and first off the bus is a very nervous but attractive young lady, Cherie (Xanadu Bruggers), carrying her one suitcase and looking for a place to hide! She spies the sheriff and pleads with him to protect her, explaining to him that there is a cowboy on the bus that has “abducted me”, who wants to drag her off to his ranch in Montana and marry her, against her will! The Sheriff doesn’t quite know whether to believe her or not, because how many abductees take the time to pack a suitcase? This head-strong young man, a cowboy, by the name of Bo Decker (Adam Reeser), doesn’t get off the bus immediately because he fell asleep in the back of the bus and is not yet aware that the bus has stopped. It is this same young Bo, who had gone to the big city to enter a big rodeo and it is this same cowboy (outwardly very bold, but actually, very immature and quite innocent), who went to a local night club with his ranch hand, Virgil Blessing, and fell head over heels for a pretty young gal (actually a nightclub chanteuse) who winked at him while she was entertaining the bar patrons in a bar lounge near the stockyards. They ended up spending the night together and in Bo’s mind this must mean that she loves him. Where he comes from, women just don’t sleep with men on a whim, and this concept is totally foreign to him. Cherie is certainly taken in by his outrageous and genuine show of affection, likes him a lot, but is not ready to make a life time commitment to someone based on a one night stand. Bo knows absolutely nothing about courting a woman, or a woman’s needs, just cannot comprehend that the woman he has just spent the night with could possibly be entertaining a relationship and not be committed to it. After all, we later find out that Cherie is the first on only woman he has ever enjoyed sexually. Bo decides that she is such a fine little filly that he’s just got to take her home to Montana with him, whether she likes it or not, and he intends to put his own brand on her. Now tell me, what girl could possibly refuse such a masculine and outrageous cowboy offer like that?

The next person to exit the bus and enter the restaurant is an older gentleman, very knowledgeable, and speaks fluent Shakespeare. Dr. Gerald Lyman (Stephen Steiner) we learn is a former college professor, apparently down on his luck, and quite evidently recently imbibed significant amounts of alcoholic spirits, and is trying to get away from something. When he spies the attractive young Elma, he starts courting her attention, spewing forth the Bard’s poetic sonnets to impress her.

The bus driver, Carl (David Roberts), makes it quite apparent that he is a passing friend of Grace, and he wants to become more privately and intimately acquainted with her before the night is over.

When the young cowboy, Bo, finally enters the restaurant, we discover a belligerent, boastful, bellicose young man, who, since his parents died and left him their ranch, has apparently gotten just about anything in the world he could want. Bo has spent his entire life on the ranch and is very naïve and yet very likable. He thinks of himself as very handsome and very desirable to the ladies and absolutely cannot understand why this beautiful young woman that he spent the previous night with, would not want to marry him, and would not jump at the chance to go and live on his Montana ranch. His side-kick, Virgil, tries to get him to understand that women like to be courted rather than just simply carried off like a side of venison to the old homestead, caveman style!

Over the course of the evening, a cowboy, Bo, can lose his belligerence. A young girl, Elma, can learn of romance from an unexpected source. A nightclub chanteuse, Cherie, can discover real affection and consider a life of domesticity, and a drunken lecher, professor Lyman, can mend his ways. Even the lonely owner of a roadside diner, Grace, and a bus driver, Carl, can find a bright touch of romance in lives spent mostly in getting left behind or in leaving others behind. And we can enjoy the poignancy and humor that life’s precious little moments and frailties can offer.

In three acts, we learn a lot more about each of these people’s private and external lives, their loves, their lumps, their trials and their ability to grow and mature and even justify their lives, right there before our eyes, before the final curtain falls.

As far as the acting goes, where do I begin? I guess with the beautiful and talented Xanadu Bruggers who plays Cherie, the complex young “chanteuse”, put at risk at a very young age from her exposure to the ignorance and sexual proclivity of life in the Ozarks. Xanadu’s transition from an overwhelmed and confused abductee, to that of a young woman who has been longing for love is now on the verge of finding it, when she discovers that Bo really does have a soft, vulnerable and caring side. A this point, the connection becomes so very heartwarming and real. Adam Reeser is absolutely over the top! He is pluperfect, brilliant in the subtleties of his cowboy Bo’s character and his transition to that of a man finally willing to push the masculine machismo of the cowboy aside, rather than loose this wonderful opportunity at the doorway to love and adulthood. Cynthia Roberts is simply audacious, vivacious, sultry and subliminally sexy in every way, without being over the top, but by being definitely on top in every way. I laughingly told Cynthia after the show that I would love to know “where her truck stop is”, ‘cause I certainly would never miss the opportunity to see her again! Terrific actress, excellent delivery. Hannah Knapp was equally delightful in her joyous and childlike innocence as Elma. Now I know that she is absolutely not a high school aged girl, but she delivered the character perfectly and you could not help but to love her. David Roberts was absolutely delightful as the not-so-subtle bus driver, Carl, on the prowl for a little extracurricular education on a cold stormy night. Charles Lewis III plays well the tough, just and caring sheriff, Will Masters. Charles Evans was most believable and loveable as Virgil Blessing, the cowboy’s long time friend and mentor. Finally, Stephen Steiner is very good as the not-so-good, licentious and lecherous professor Lyman.

William Inge has written many well known plays and novels, including the long running and award winning “Picnic”, “Come Back Little Sheba”, and “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs”, beginning in 1947 and through the 60’s! However, in the 70’s he fell on hard times with few successes, fell into a great depression and committed suicide in 1973, but he left us with a great legacy of brilliantly insightful work. “Bus Stop” is certainly one of my favorites, especially when it is delivered so very well by such a hard working and motivated cast. This production is certainly well worth the short drive to Alameda, to the very intimate little Alterena Theatre on High Street, across from Lincoln Park.

Bus Stop has performances on Friday and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with Sunday Matinees at 2 p.m. and closes on Saturday, February 6th, with the 8 p.m. performance. Tickets range between $19 and $22 each which you can request by calling (510) 523-1553 or by going to their website at The playhouse is located at 1409 High Street in Alameda, just a few blocks southwest of the High Street bridge, across the street from Lincoln Park and near Central Avenue in Alameda. This former little grocery store, converted into a theatre in 1957, was the brain child of a terrific community actor, director and benevolent soul, Dick Shore. The original company, the Alameda Little Theatre became “ALT arena” theater as it is known today. If you have never taken in this very friendly little theatre, located in a very safe and comfortable area of Alameda, a place you will feel safe to walk with plenty of free parking on the nearby streets at night or during the day, then you have been missing a good thing for much too long! This is a fun show and now is the time to go!

Avenue “Q”, what is it all about?

Welllll, Avenue “Q” is an educational Sesame Street Muppet type musical “sendup” with adult themes, language, profanity and full frontal (puppet) nudity! Oh, my gosh, oh, golly gee, sounds just like the musical for me!

This Tony Award winning musical farce designed for the Muppet generation came to the Off Broadway (Vineyard Theatre) theatrical table in 2003 and left every one yelling for more. Avenue “Q” takes a look at life as it really is, with characters that have to deal with the realities of being over-educated for the real jobs that are available. Without a question, this is an adult show with themes that treat everything from homophobia, to racism, to pornography, to that adult aspect of high speed internet. It has been described as totally naughty, nasty, and hilariously potty-mouthed.

It rings with charming musical numbers such as “It Sucks to be Me”, “The Internet is for Porn”, “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist”. There are fun-filled sexual innuendos everywhere and there is nothing quite like monster puppets having sex - - - boy does the fur fly! This is sort of a Muppets Movie on steroids but designed for improving sexual education for adults!

West Coast composer Craig Bohmler ("Enter the Guardsman," "The Haunting of Winchester", for one, laughed his head off when he first saw the musical.

"What particularly appeals to me about the show is its satirical qualities," Bohmler says. "As a guy who grew up with the Muppets, it was wonderful to see that turned on its head. I do not find it cynical, but rather edgy and a wonderful sendup in the sort of 'Saturday Night Live' kind of way "... the simplicity of the musical allows the devilishly clever lyrics to really be heard."

Now when the question is asked as to whether you are adult enough for the Muppets, you can say without reservation, you definitely understand why the kids loved the Muppets and their weirdness, but in a language we adults can understand and appreciate!

I am going to see this show in the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts at 255 Almaden Blvd, in down town San Jose this week. This show is only in town for this week so I suggest that if you are interested in seeing this “satirical look at life”, then by all means possible, call the ticket service today at (866) 395-2929 or visit their website at