Its director contends guests will be hard pressed to find a more gifted cast and crew than those represented in the playbill of a soon-to-debut Masque Community Theatre production.
Those are the sentiments of Charlie Strange, a five-time Masque director and head of “Bus Stop,” a show that combines comedy with drama and opens Feb. 24 and runs through March 11 at the Lightfoot Recreation Center.
Show times are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. on Sunday.
The play—based on the 1955 Broadway production of “Bus Stop” and a 1956 20th Century Fox film of the same name starring Marilyn Monroe—is set in a diner about 30 miles outside Kansas City, Kan.
A freak snowstorm forces a mini-busload of travelers and its driver to take overnight refuge in the roadside café, where an interesting series of romantic relationships unfold.
“There are no real lead roles, so it’s truly an ensemble cast in that regard,” said Lydia Massias, who is cast as the restaurant owner, Grace Hoyland.
Massias, a New Tampa resident and professor of nursing at Pasco-Hernando Community College, has performed in numerous productions throughout Tampa Bay in the past 20 years. But it’s the first time in almost a decade that she’s acted in a Masque play.
“I like the balance between comedy and more serious roles,” said Massias, when asked what enticed her to audition for her character, passionate in nature and game for some flirtatious behavior with Carl the bus driver.
Christopher T. Newton, a recent transplant from Savannah, Ga., plays Carl in “Bus Stop.” Represented by Alexa Talent Management, he has also performed in a variety of other on-stage roles.
Moreover, he has had lead parts in numerous independent films and been in several television commercials and music videos.
“Carl is kind of a jovial, happy-go-lucky guy who kind of has a crush on Grace,” Newton said. “We have a lot of fun and the Masque people have been great to work with.”
Autumn Barthelemy, a University of Tampa master’s degree student who is cast as Cherie, is returning to do her fourth Masque production. Her pretty young character with a “hill folk” background aspires to be a nightclub singer.
But she wants no part of the advances made by a brash and crude cowboy named Bo Decker, played by Austin Figueroa, a 12th-grader at Tampa Bay Tech.
“Cherie has a lot of depth to her character, and she learns a lot about love,” Barthelemy said.
Figueroa noted Bo Decker’s personality is nothing like his own.
“He’s pretty much a brat, and he’s stuck up,” Figueroa said. “But I’m really good at developing my roles.”
In his 10th performance with Masque, Bob Stanley will play Dr. Gerald Lyman, a former college professor who, with his Bostonian brogue is well spoken and charming, but cannot hold a job due his outright resistance to authority.
He’s also known for imbibing too heavily at times and for his obvious affection toward young woman. In this instance, he has eyes for Grace’s waitress, Elma Duckworth, portrayed by Adrienne “Addy” Donne LeFebvre, a 14-year-old homeschooled eighth-grader.
“He is a man who has some very serious emotional issues…he’s not happy with his life,” said Stanley. “About the only thing I have in common with him is that I’m an English teacher at Tampa Bay Tech.”
The two characters not involved in any of the evening’s shenanigans are Sheriff Will Masters, played by Joshua Sussman, and Virgil Blessing; an older, wiser cowboy who has become a father figure to Bo.
Although Sussman has served as artistic director and director of several Masque productions, this will be his first stage appearance. He comes to the theater through the courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association.
“The sheriff’s got a good sense of humor, but he doesn’t put up with nonsense,” said Sussman, who noted how thrilled he is to be in a play that he considers to be “beautifully written.”
“And I couldn’t want a better group of people to work with,” he said.
Ron Pandolfo, who is cast as Virgil Blessing in his seventh Masque performance, couldn’t agree more.
“What keeps bringing me back are the people, especially Charlie,” Pandolfo said. “He’s a great director and we just love working with him.”
Strange’s wife, Leslie, is the play’s producer.
Tickets are $14 for adults and $12 for students, military personnel and seniors 55 and older. The cost is $10 for children 12 and younger.
For more information, visit www.masquetheatre.net or call 813-983-1710.