In the tiny town of San Gabriel, New Mexico, is the Terminal Cafe where the locals hang out complaining about life, each other, and the food while dreaming about something better. There's the Terminal's tough owner, Ro; the town Super, McKay, from back east; Kate and Ben, the town spitfire and the town tough guy, destined to be together; Dawson, the town pup with more heart than brains; Joe, an illiterate widower, raising his teenage son, BB; the fancy and intriguing Carly, new in town and vague of means; and Floyd, half Navajo, as old or older than the town itself. These are simple people; their lives, up to now, have been untouched, almost pure, yet they have passion for life and for one another, with naiveté that can be charming as well as devastating. About all San Gabriel can offer, besides the cafe, is a coal mine, which barely keeps the town alive. But after Pearl harbor is bombed, and World War Two becomes a grim reality, the town's mine becomes important both to the War effort and to the mysterious goings on at Los Alamos (where the Manhattan Project is based). The interest in the mine is a blessing to some and a curse to others who see beyond the immediate revitalization the town. At first everything seems good and even the Terminal prospers, but greed, corruption and mismanagement get a stranglehold on the town as the testing of The Bomb, silently, deadly, has its own effect on it too. The Terminal's beloved watchdog succumbs to the poisoning; Ro and Dawson's daughter is born with birth defects, though they don't realize radiation was the cause; there is a disastrous accident at the mine when safety is compromised to produce more coal for Los Alamos. In the end, of course, the war is won, but San Gabriel is left a casualty, with its few local survivors as ghosts in a ghost town.
Inspired by the real town of Madrid, New Mexico, TERMINAL CAFE is a gripping and touching look at the life and death of a very small town and its inhabitants. Ultimately the play is about surviving in changing times as progress leaves victims in it's wake.