What a Ride! Opening Night of Bus Stop!

Oh, you just have to see Bus Stop!

df483314-0346-4ce3-af1b-31b1ec286498It was so exciting seeing the opening night at Center Players, this great award winning theater in Freehold,   especially after having the privilege of seeing several of the rehearsals and going with the producer and artistic director  when they sought out all the props at antique stores and junk yards.  For me, it was magical to see how a play comes together.

But even more  exciting, was the little bit of backstage information I was able to garner. I always like to sit in one of the front rows in any live performance theater…and I have often heard how my laughter at a funny line or my too-loud giggles at a particular situation have made a difference on stage. But after seeing rehearsals and being at opening night, I could see it myself! The audience really does make a difference to the actors.

Actors who were always fantastic during rehearsals, albeit missing a line or a word or two, actually shone and projected so much more in front of the audience! You could almost feel the enthusiasm on stage when there was uproarious laughter from those in the seats of this intimate little theater.  Director Jeff Caplan had told me the audience truly becomes part of the play, but it was wondrous to see it first hand.

The cast  was magnificent..every last one of them!    Two generations of Brett Sabo’s family…her mom and her eight year old son Evan, sat behind me and were obviously very proud to be part of the opening night audience. For very good reason.

Brett played Grace Hoyland, the owner of  Grace’s Diner, where all the action took place. And she was dynamic! Brett’s timing made the difference between belting out a funny line, and pouring out laughter to a very pleased audience. Beforehand, Evan exuded confidence his mom would be terrific, primarily because “she’s been in lots of plays and she’s always good!” but even he was more enthusiastic at intermission after he saw and heard her in Bus Stop. Brett’s mom, also an actress in some Brookdale Community College presentations, was also quite proud of her daughter’s accomplishment at this little theater on South Street.

Joe Orlando, who played the role of Bo Decker, the young, macho cowboy seeking to marry pretty chanteuse Jennifer Karmazin, absolutely shone in his very funny one liners. Here again, his timing is what made the difference between funny and very funny lines.  He was great.   Jennifer herself showed that in addition to great acting, she also has a beautiful singing voice…and can make a very speedy change of clothes in a less than perfect setting!

Kudos to Jeff Caplan, who has long ago shown his excellence as both director and actor, but did it again in Bus Stop.  Jeff proved that gathering together a cast that has never acted together, most of whom have never appeared on stage in Freehold, and including one who has never ever acted before at all, PLUS taking on one of the roles himself, was not really a challenge at all.  At least, that’s the way the finished product made it seem.

A veteran of the stage and behind the scenes at Center Players, Jeff the Director  also took on the role of Carl  the actor when he couldn’t find the perfect actor during tryouts to portray Carl the busdriver. His facial expressions, timing, and on stage presence also are indicative of his vast experience.

Similarly, Tom Cox, who portrayed Virgil, Bo Decker’s confidante and mentor, and who came fresh off the New York Shakespearean stage for this role, showed outstanding experience. Take your eyes off the main action during any part of the play, and watch the ‘uninvolved’ actors.  Tom  and the others kept themselves busy bringing realty to the stage.  Hard to say how many times the pretty and pert Kate Barron, who played teenager Elma Duckworth the waitress, cleaned the counter or wiped off the table, but like Tom, she stayed busy and was realistic.  Kate is another actress with plenty of wonderful facial expression; her enthusiasm for the role spilled over by the bucketful.   Hopefully we’ll see more of her with Center Players.

Without being insulting, it’s safe to say David Clarke made a very convincing drunk!   He was funny, endearing, believeable, and just plain great in the part.

But Freehold can take special pride in their own Sheldon Fallon, the insurance man turned actor  as a brand new septuagenarian!  Sheldon was the town sheriff who took on the young Bo Decker and kept order in the diner as well as in the blizzard outside the door. Looks like Sheldon has been bitten by the acting bug and hopefully will be back on stage again in the not too distant future.

Producer Colleen DeFelice played double duty, as in being involved for the last few weks I have learned to think is second nature.  When a crew member called to say he was ill and could not be there, this very able, and very efficient producer stepped in to stage manage…along with her other volunteer jobs.  But given Colleen’s penchant for perfection, it all went off well without a hitch!


Bus Stop is playing through November and is a delightful evening of entertainment. The Signature Series presentations of Center Players are always close to spectacular, but Bus Stop, with its humor, drama, beauty, and  talent is the perfect way to celebrate an occasion, enjoy a night out, or just simply to welcome autumn!

Bus Stop, written by William Inge and directed by Jeff Caplan, opened at Center Playhouse, 35 South Street in Downtown Freehold, on October 10. The show runs for five weekends through November 9, with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 2:00 PM. There will be no performance on Halloween, October 31. There will be an additional matinee performance on Saturday, November 1 at 2:00 PM. Tickets are $25 for Adults and $23 for Seniors/Students, and include desserts and refreshments at intermission. Group rates for parties of 10 or more are available. Seating is limited, so call the box office at (732) 462-9093 or visit us online at www.CenterPlayers.org to purchase your tickets.

By Muriel Smith


Muriel Smith is a guest blogger for Center Players. She grew up in Union, NJ and lived in Highlands for more than 40 years, working as a newspaper writer/editor before leaving home with her husband 15 years ago to live in an RV and visit every state in the Union before determining that Monmouth County is still the best place to live. She’s now settled comfortably in Freehold.



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