People are getting ready; there is a bus coming – sooner or later.
“Passengers” is Players Workshop’s February offering, and although it’s disguised as a comedy, it has deeper resonance for old people old enough to wonder at bedtime whether they’ll wake up in the morning. .
This play answers this eternal question.
From the blue jelly light of the opening moon to the lady of the bag conclusion, “Passengers” is a solid production.
The play features 10 actors in 19 roles across eight scenes, all of which take place in a Midwestern bus station.
You won’t know where everyone is going until the last scene, but clues abound, especially in the first scene.
Another highlight is the return of Workshop veterans Gene Anderson and Jim Beres, who both sport seasoned fun bones in their well-worn geezer personas: Anderson as a sensitive, slightly clumsy old man with a big heart, and Beres as a grumpy, inflammable miser.
“Excuse me: how long have you been dead? Beres opens the room.
In fact, Beres tackles four roles, so he’s not always cantankerous and cantankerous, but we still love him when he is.
Joining Anderson and Beres are Karen Cahill, Liz Ebbing, Nicole Pappalardo, Herb Price, Sally Price and Christa Ruther, along with studio newcomers Ben Grochowski and Michelle Huppenbauer.
“This play is unique in that it has eight different scenes, and the first seven are disconnected,” director Mary Fox told The Hawk Eye. “You have to wait for the final scene because then everything is linked with the wisdom of the lady of the bag.”
It’s like watching several episodes of the old TV series “The Twilight Zone” in a late-night frenzy.
As with any theatrical story worthy of your time, dialogue is what makes or breaks a production, and “Passengers” is loaded with busy lines.
One of Huppenbauer’s characters wrote “over 30,000” poems, all of them quite short; here is “Love is like a bus”:
“Love is like a bus. Some people seem to be waiting forever.”
“I didn’t think it was right for me to bury the clown,” Sally Price says in scene five.
“The clown hit the lemonade stand,” says Herb Price.
Of course: The clown lived with the elephant woman.
“I’ve really grown in the last 15 minutes,” Liz Ebbing told her mother over the phone.
Huppenbauer’s character sums up the general patina of the play in Scene 7: “You can go on and not be afraid of life, like I’m not afraid of death,” she tells Beres.
Kudos to Randy Wischmeier, Kent Lewis, Steve Poling, Bell Ell and Al Fabel for the set design and construction. The rotary pay phone and bus station posters provided by Burlington Trailways – and Beres’ vintage bus driver hat too – set the scene nicely.
Libba Flores, Jayne Gobble and Dawn Ebbing get gold stars for having to make actors’ makeup and hair work, and Karla Mundt and JoJo Arms receive Good Driver awards for shoving their actors in and out of costume for nearly two hours of role change.
The stories and characters of “Passengers” deserve a plethora of praise: priceless, witty, sparkling, bittersweet, and richly poignant.
See “Passengers”. You don’t need faith, you just jump on board.
“Passengers” is directed by Mary Fox, assisted by JoJo Arms and produced by Al Fabel. It runs from Friday to Sunday and from February 24 to 27; all performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Masks are mandatory and social distancing is observed.