The premise of ’Merely Players" is similar to the film “Waiting for Guffman”: these are people who have no business putting on a musical, in this case “Bus Stop: the Musical”. To add to the amateur feeling of the piece, three audience members are incorporated into the proceedings, and two of them are a large part of the play, and in fact one is the star of the show!
Since incorporating unknown quantities is risky business, and I applaud the company for having the courage to try it (although this is becoming more commonplace in theater everywhere), the play could be great, amusing or painful, depending on who they end up with through an audition process that occurs early in the story. (Audience members choose to participate when invited to sign up by the ushers.) On the day I and two other family members attended, it was amusing, and a very interesting experiment. The cast deftly made sure the unknowns were in the right place at the right time, and since they were “rehearsing” for most of it, having a script in hand did not seem out of place.
The cast was a bit uneven, but it seemed the cause might have been the way some of the characters were written. Some were stereotype figures (the flaming gay actor playing a Mexican worker, the ingenue, the over-the-hill star, the well-educated black guy who is asked to be more, um, black), all familiar and fun to watch, but others were a bit harder to pin down due to dialog that often didn’t make a lot of sense. This interfered with the flow of the story, as lines seemed written to accommodate the action, rather than flush out the character.
All in all, though, a fun afternoon in an intimate theater setting. Parking can be a challenge, so arrive early. The theater serves wine, beer, and frappucino, as well as snacks, and audience members are given their own plastic clappers upon entering the theater, so it sounds like the audience is huge!