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Something good from Kansas: Who'd have thought it?

By by dianna wray
Feb. 8, 2011 at 7 p.m.
Updated Feb. 8, 2011 at 8:09 p.m.

Eva Laporte's Cherie gets a kiss from Zach Lewis' Bo Decker. The Texas Repertory Theatre is performing the play, "Bus Stop," through Feb. 20 in Houston.

When people say that nothing good ever came out of Kansas, they're mostly right. But mostly dead is still slightly alive, and mostly right can still be just a tiny bit wrong.

Keep that in mind, and go see William Inge's play, "Bus Stop."

Yes, it was a movie starring a breathy Marilyn Monroe, but way back before that it was Tony-nominated play by Kansas-native William Inge.

Inge was a typical Midwesterner. He kept himself to himself, and his characters spoke in the same simple language that he did.

But glancing past the simple language he used, his characters were roiling, emotional creations, simple only on the outside. Much like the playwright himself.

Born in Independence, Kan., Inge was working as a teacher when a trip to the theater to see Tennessee Williams' play "The Glass Menagerie" changed everything.

He went back home and wrote a play, and then another and another and it seemed like things would just keep getting better for Inge. He had a string of successes, and his play "Picnic" won him a Pulitzer.

However, Inge was a closeted, hard-drinking man who wrote so well about repressed emotions because he had quite a few of his own.

He couldn't take criticism, and after his last big success, an Oscar for his screenplay "Splendor in the Grass," he never managed to get in another good swing at success.

He died in 1973 - though not in Kansas, since that would have been redundant - and his work has fallen by the wayside, outside of the occasional community theater revival.

But that may be changing. Last year, Boston Globe reporter Laura Collins-Hughes suggested that Inge's work may be coming back into vogue, and now the Houston-based Texas Repertory Theatre Company is putting on "Bus Stop."

The play is about a naive cowboy, a dive-bar chanteuse and a group of travelers stranded in a Kansas City cafe by a snow storm.

Love, laughs and drama are all on parade in this clever, well-written play, and it's worth the price of the ticket to see it onstage.

If you're curious to see one of the few good things that the land of Dorothy and Toto ever wrought, head on down to Houston and check out the Texas Repertory Theatre Company's production of "Bus Stop." It runs through Feb. 20.

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