Pump Boys and Dinettes would seem to be about as far as you can get from intellectual theatre. It’s a show with little dialogue and a lot of music about a gas station (they’d say “filling station”) and a diner that calls itself a cafe somewhere in rural North Carolina.
But listen to those lyrics. They’re imaginative and funny. The music, which wiggles back and forth between rock and country, ranges from satisfactory to downright delightful. One of the songs, “The Night Dolly Parton Was Almost Mine”, actually was on the country-western music charts for a while. That should give some idea of the rollicking going on at the Playhouse @ Westport Plaza.
The six-person cast works hard in this relatively short show. All but one sing, all six play multiple instruments, including whisks, wooden spoons and graters. Chet Wollan is Jim, the primary narrator, a good old boy. The other station owner, L.M, played by Brandon Fillette, sings the Dolly Parton song and plays keyboards, including a small accordion.
The tousle-haired cutie Steven Romero Schaeffer works on guitar and drums and takes full advantage of his looks as Jackson, the youngest of the four employees. And then there’s Ed Avila playing Eddie, on all sorts of strings. He never says (or sings) a word, and resembles one of the security guys on some show like Maury Povich, sunglasses, cap and crossed arms. Despite his menacing appearance, he manages to endear himself to the audience anyway.
Rhetta Cupp, the older of the two waitresses, is Jessica Bradley, a little jaded but a fine hand with baking pies and doing kitchen-based percussion. Her sister Prudie Cupp, played by Candice Lively, has a swell time flirting with the shy L.M. and cutting a rug. Their diner is called the Double Cupp Cafe.
Everyone sings well, especially a belting number from Bradley, and the versatility of the group is a major contributor to the fun. The Playhouse is a small venue, so it’s easy to get a good view of the action and the amusing set, at least from most seats. But the playhouse ought to be serving pie at their bar.
Pump Boys and Dinettes
through February 19
Playhouse at Westport
635 Westport Plaza