Critical Overview

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Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 604

Bus Stop opened on Broadway March 2, 1955, for the first of 475 performances. If the reviews are any indication, this play was a success with both critics and audiences. Robert Coleman of the Daily Mirror summed it up when he advised that Bus Stop ‘‘should prove a popular terminal for playgoers for months to come.’’ In this ‘‘endearing, though deceptively simple, comedy,’’ the audience can find ‘‘magical warmth and humor,’’ according to Coleman. In wrapping up his review, Coleman advised readers to make reservations right away, since the play ‘‘has heart, compassion, wisdom, and loads of laughs.’’

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Another positive assessment was provided by Walter F. Kerr of the Herald Review. While citing the strengths of the cast, Kerr also praised Inge’s writing. Kerr stated that, ‘‘the fascination of the funny and very touching evening lies not in its surprises but in its sharp, honest, down-to-earth eye for character.’’ He observed that Inge ‘‘has not set out to write an epic, just a warm and sensible little scrap between a couple of stranded, stubborn, appealing people.’’

A mixed review was offered by Richard Watts, Jr. of the New York Post, who stated that ‘‘in a day when there is reason to worry about the state of American playwriting, he [Inge] brings to the theatre a kind of warm-hearted compassion, creative vigor, freshness of approach and appreciation of average humanity that can be wonderfully touching and stimulating.’’ Watts deemed Bus Stop a ‘‘romantic comedy about ordinary people that is at once humorous, simple, steadily entertaining and vastly endearing. It is also splendidly acted.’’

However, Watts maintained that it lacked ‘‘the poignant dramatic sturdiness and the tragic implications that were present in Come Back, Little Sheba and Picnic. It is unashamedly sentimental in its viewpoint. And I suppose it was written chiefly as entertainment, if you regard that as bad.’’ But Watts clearly did not see entertainment as a bad thing, and noted that Inge’s play is ‘‘set down with all of Mr. Inge’s skill and warmth.’’

John McClain of the Journal American also expressed some reservations about Bus Stop, noting that ‘‘the whole thing stops dead in the middle of the second act.’’ Yet McClain contended that ’’Bus Stop will be with us as long as the road to The Music Box is open.’’

There is no hesitation in the review by Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times. Atkinson deemed Bus Stop ‘‘an uproarious comedy that never strays from the truth.’’ He also asserted that ‘‘once it gets started it flows naturally and sympathetically through the hearts and hopes of some admirable people.’’

He was especially complimentary of Inge’s writing. Atkinson pointed to the dialogue and stated that there are ‘‘some moving conversations about the nature of love and the generosity that makes it possible.’’ This, according to the reviewer, was because Inge ‘‘has more than an evening’s entertainment in mind. He has ideas and principles . . . [and] he says a number of simple truths that give height and depth to his writing.’’ To sum up his review, Atkinson recommended ‘‘both the writing and the acting . . . [as] a memorable achievement.’’

The one dissenting voice was that of John Chapman of the Daily News, who declared that Inge had ‘‘written a scenario instead of a play.’’ He deemed the play as ‘‘make-believe, and not very exciting at that.’’ He concluded: ‘‘I couldn’t get myself to care very much about the romance between the young cowboy and the slightly soiled lady. I just didn’t believe in it—and if one doesn’t believe in something it is a scenario and not a play.’’

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