Strangers at a bus stop connect in this Toronto show at Fairview Library Theatre
What would you do if you were stuck in a diner with seven other strangers? Having taken many Greyhound trips, I found myself wondering what I would do as I watched Bus Stop. This quirky play tells the story of eight strangers in Kansas City who are stuck in a diner because of a snow storm. The uncleared roads make it impossible for the bus they were traveling on to continue on its way, forcing them to seek refuge in a small town diner with its owner, waitress and town sheriff.
Ultimately, this play is one about human relationships and establishing connections. The play largely centres on the relationship between Bo Decker, a cowboy, and Cherie, a chanteuse. Bo declares he will marry Cherie and essentially packs her up on to a bus to go to his ranch in Montana. Forced against her will, she decides she’ll return home to Kansas City while spending her time figuring out what she should do next with the help of Elma, the high school waitress.
Debuting on Broadway in 1955, I believe this play would have been quite progressive for its time. Bo speaks in length about losing his virginity while Cherie openly admits he isn’t the first man she’s been with, something that wouldn’t have been spoken about much in the 50s, let alone by a woman. Diner owner Grace and bus driver Carl sneak off to her apartment above the diner, despite her having a husband. They seem to forge a relationship even though Carl is aware of her husband’s existence. Dr. Lyman, a former college professor, invites Elma to attend the orchestra with him and wear her finest dress, making for an inappropriate sexual situation in this day and age, let alone sixty years ago.
I found some of the jokes to be a little off-colour and I was annoyed when Cherie, predictably, ends up going to Montana to marry Bo, even though she’d spent the entire play concluding that she shouldn’t. I felt that this spoke to the era of the play and it made me realize that plays like these offer us valuable insights to the past and how people back then might have behaved and reacted to various situations. I noticed that many members of the audience were older and seemed to thoroughly enjoy the play and all of its (often) cheesy jokes and puns. I think this speaks to a generation gap; this play was nostalgic for them and for me it was just a somewhat entertaining two hours.
The best of the play was when the characters put on a performance to pass the time. Aside from Elma and Dr. Lyman reciting the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, which made me feel uncomfortable, the rest was quite funny. Cherie sings a song, Virgil, a ranch hand, plays his guitar, and Bo starts a fight that has to be stopped by the sheriff.
All in all this was an amusing play. It’s clear it was written in a different time but if you can appreciate that and look past some things that might seem a little off in modern day, you’ll probably enjoy yourself.
–Bus Stop is playing at the Fairview Library Theatre, 35 Fairview Mall, until March 24
-Shows run March 15 – March 24 at 8:00pm, excepting March 18 at 2pm and a 2pm additional show on March 24
-Ticket prices are $27.50, $22 (students/seniors)
-Tickets are available online or at 416-299-5557