When director Sonia Perez approaches a play, she’s always interested in how the characters are portrayed within the work. In the Toledo Repertoire Theater’s production of William Inge’s Bus Stop, Perez focuses closely on the female characters.
“In the movie in 1956, Marilyn Monroe plays Cherie and they see her as this sex symbol character. She has this really neat line where she says, ‘I want a guy I can look up to and respect,‘” says Perez. “That one line where she is being manhandled by Bo and kidnapped onto this bus; the only thing she thought she had to offer was the way she displayed herself but there’s a part of her that really wants to find herself.”
Perez doesn’t necessarily call herself a feminist, but she enjoys the perspective of character. As well as Bo and Cheri’s relationship, there is Carl and Grace. Grace is also an empowered woman in the script, Perez said. Her husband abandoned her and she runs the diner where a group of bus riders are stranded during a snowstorm. “If Grace doesn’t have the attention of men she’s gets grumpy,” Perez said. “It’s wonderful to see a woman who is answering back to a man.”
The bus had been traveling from Kansas City when a snowstorm derailed it 30 miles outside of Topeka. They take shelter at a diner where Grace is the owner and Elma is the young teacher who works there. Bo wants to kidnap Cherie and take her back on the bus to his ranch. “Cherie doesn’t have the full strength to stand up to Bo. She’s aided by the sheriff,” Perez said. “There are parts (in the play) where she does stand up to him. There’s strength to that, especially in the 1950s.”
Rehearsals began in late October. Perez has directed such shows as “And Then There Were None,” “Of Mice and Men,” and “The Chronicles of Narnia.” As a singer and actress she has performed in “City of Angels,” “The Full Monty,” “Carousel,” “The Sound of Music,” and internationally in “Phantom of the Opera.”
“One of the things I enjoy is when I approach scripts, if there is something weak in the character I will embrace it,” Perez said.
There are a total of eight characters in the play, said Sarah Sobel, chair of marketing and advertising for the Toledo Repertoire Theater. None of the characters know each other before they are thrown together to spend the night at the diner. “You get to know the characters intimately,” Perez said.
“When I say it’s an ensemble cast, everyone has one arc throughout the play,” said Perez. “Everybody is pretty much in a different place at the end of the play as far as what they have learned.”
Hannah Berry and Jordan Borowski play the romantic leads of Cherie and Bo Decker. Cherie is a pretty young woman who comes from a difficult background and aspires to be a nightclub singer. Bo is a brash young ranch owner with boorish manners that hide a naivete. He has fallen head-over-heels in love with Cherie and has convinced himself that Cherie will be his bride, though Cherie has other plans, Sobel said.
Berry is in her senior year of homeschooling and hails from Lambertville. Bus Stop is her third acting role; however, Berry has grown up on the stage as a competitive dancer. Performance comes naturally to her. Berry has a love for the performing arts and enjoys using her gifts to help others, Sobel said.
Bus Stop is Borowski’s third production at The Rep. He previously appeared in “Of Mice and Men” (Slim) and “Photograph 51” (Ray Gosling). When he is not in Toledo performing, Borowski can be found producing music in his home studio, Sobel said.
Perez is originally from New York and moved to Ohio because of her husband’s work as a director of a Lutheran church. Along with her work in theater, she performs as a concert singer.
The production, sponsored by Ye Olde Durty Bird, will be performed on Jan. 11, 12, 17, 18, and 19 at 8:00 p.m. and Jan. 13 and 20 at 2:30 p.m.
For tickets, go to www.toledorep.org or call (419) 243-9277.
Prices vary: Individual – $20; Senior (60 and over) – $18; Student (14 – college) – $12; Child (13 and under) – $10.