The Bus Stops Here

By Beacon Staff

Step into the O’Shaughnessy Center, and you’ve waltzed back into the 1950s. Dingy gold walls, Coca Cola sign, and oilskin tablecloths transport the audience back into a small Midwestern town diner.

Before one character walks on stage for Bus Stop, the mood is set for the Ward and June Cleaver era. The bittersweet romantic comedy is a William Inge hit—and one of several classics in Whitefish Theatre Company’s 30th year lineup.

Audience-goers familiar with the movie starring Marilyn Monroe may be surprised to find the entire stage play taking place in Grace’s diner, which also functions as a bus stop. “It has that lived-in ’50s look with slightly dirty walls,” says Lonnie Porro, who designed the production. Linoleum floors and a diner counter complete the look.

Era-costuming completes the ’50s ambience. Porro tracked down waitress uniforms on eBay and built a midnight blue and black nightclub ensemble for one of the leads. “It’s a little Frederick’s of Hollywood and a little of our own creation,” says Porro. “Little is the operative word.”

The play opens in a blizzard. Phone lines are down, highways are closed, and the Kansas City bus can’t go further in the weather. Eight relative strangers are stuck inside the diner—just the sort of place for drama to unfold.

Emotional turbulence lights up the diner, as does loneliness. The main lovers, Bo and Cherie, can’t agree. The cowboy wants to take her back to his Montana ranch to get married, but the dive nightclub singer has aspirations above her abilities. In the course of one night, all the characters confront their own vulnerabilities.

The play is scheduled to run Oct. 17-19 and 24-26. Friday and Saturday shows begin at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday performances at 4 p.m. Adults tickets cost $14; students and seniors cost $10. Call 406-862-5371 for reservations.