Cherie, an attractive chanteuse, slightly past her prime, who has been singing in a Kansas City nightclub but is now traveling west, allegedly for a film test at a Hollywood studio. She is hotly pursued by Bo Decker, who, having heard her rendition of “That Old Black Magic” at the nightclub where she entertained, was so completely captivated by her that he ended up losing his virginity to her. Now he insists that she must marry him, presumably to make him an honest man. Unsentimental about her fleeting affair with Bo, Cherie does not want to go off to live on Bo’s farm in Montana, although, as she considers her options, the prospect of marrying Bo seems to be a reasonable one for her.
Bo Decker, a young, extremely innocent cowboy whose infatuation with Cherie consumes him. He will not leave her alone and is completely dismayed when she does not want to marry him. More financially secure than most of the men Cherie has met, and certainly not unattractive, Bo is a good catch, but it takes Cherie a while to realize that. Cherie enlists the sheriff’s help to keep Bo from pursuing her, but finally she accedes to going to Montana with him.
Virgil Blessing, Bo’s surrogate father and traveling companion. Virgil is a lonely man who has devoted himself to rearing Bo, whose parents are dead. When Cherie comes into Bo’s life, however, Virgil gives his blessing to their forthcoming union and bows out as they leave together on the bus for Bo’s ranch in Montana. Virgil represents pure love, and he ends up literally being left out in the cold when the bus pulls out.
Dr. Gerald Lyman
Dr. Gerald Lyman, an egocentric former professor, given to drinking too much, who now spends most of his time on buses traveling aimlessly from one place to another. As the play develops, it becomes clear that his problem is nympholepsy. He tries to arrange an assignation in Topeka with the teenage Elma Duckworth but finally, in a rare moment of conscience, calls it off. Perhaps for the first time in a long while, he does the right thing. Although the audience is never told explicitly that Lyman is in trouble with the law, his concern about getting over the state line as soon as possible suggests that he is running away from something.
Grace, a middle-aged waitress who works long hours at the café where the bus stops. Grace is good-hearted and unattached. During the play, she sneaks off with Carl, the bus driver, for half an hour, taking him to her apartment above the café. As the play ends, Virgil has no place to go and the town is completely closed up, but Grace has had her satisfaction for the night, so she does not invite the forlorn Virgil to share her bed, although to do so would have been to provide a reasonable solution for both of them.
Elma Duckworth, a high school student who loves literature and who romanticizes life. Innocent and nubile, Elma is Grace’s helper in the café. When Grace goes off with the bus driver, Elma takes over, going from customer to customer and eliciting information from all the passengers on the bus, serving the function of a one-person chorus. She and Dr. Lyman do a scene from Romeo and Juliet and she is almost drawn into his web, but his conscience apparently forestalls their meeting in Topeka.
Carl, the bus driver. Realizing that the blizzard raging outside will make it impossible for him to keep his schedule, he seeks comfort in Grace’s bed.
Will Masters, the sheriff, a tall, hefty man with a stubbly beard and a scar on his forehead. Cherie turns to him for protection when Bo’s pursuit bewilders her. It is he who first tells Grace that the bus that is about to arrive will not be able to make it to Topeka because the road is blocked by drifting snow. His role essentially is that of a conciliator between Bo and Cherie.
Virgil is also a cowboy and Bo’s long-time friend. Significantly older than Bo, he functions as a father figure for the...
(The entire section is 1,416 words.)