Thursday February 22nd 2018

” Pump Boys and Dinettes”

Over the years, we have seen many versions of the adorable “Pump Boys and Dinettes” written by John Fley,Mark Hardwick,Debra Monk,Cass Morgan,John Schimmel and Jim Wann. This is a fun little piece about a gas station/dinette located on highway 57 somewhere between Frog Level and Smyrna, North Carolina and lets us into the lives of the four men who run the service station and the two sisters who run the Double Cupp Diner next door. This show has been around since 1982, so it will have a 30 year anniversary in 2012 and yet the country rock music and the down home personalities are as fresh as they were when I first say this show on Lincoln Avenue.

While, in most cases, this play has been performed in our regional theaters, it has never been done in as intimate a spot as The No Exit Cafe in Rogers Park, home of Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre where it feels just right. Here we are in a small cafe, where we can have a drink or a piece of pie with our coffee, listening to the tales of the lives of these six people. The writers were in fact THE characters they wrote about and today, in the intimacy of The No Exit, this show , under the careful direction of Fred Anzevino is as fresh as it was back in the 1980’s. Over the years, anyone who has attended a Theo Ubique show knows how this troupe can use this tiny storefront theater located in Rogers park and produce shows that are “mind-boggling”. This small, young energetic group of actors/dancers/singers can make anything work on their small stage.

Adam Veness has created a set that makes every seat in the house a perfect sight line and Michael M. Nardulli’s lighting allows each character to have their shining moments. Matt Guthier’s costumes are very realistic and I must say that the hand props by Raquel M. Adorno are used to make music as I have never seen before. Each performer gets into their roles with tremendous gusto and each character seems to be that person you might spot along a rural highway in a service station /diner- they are  that real!

Courteny Crouse takes on the role of Jim who is sort of our story teller and Jim DeSelm is a powerful L.M. ( he is also the show’s musical director). Eddie is deftly handled by Cody Siragusa and Alex Stage, a newcomer to Chicago, gives Jackson just the right “down home” feeling. These four men have the “country rock” sound with just the right “twang” and  DeSelm truly handles the “Dolly Parton” love song and the “Farmer Tan” as best I have heard ( and I have seen this show probably 20 times over the years). Now lets get to the Double Cupp ladies. They are “double D” meaning delightful and delicious.Christina Hall as Purdie and Danni Smith as Rhetta are both magical in their portrayals. They have wonderful voices and charm that will win you over- in particular when they do their “Tips” number ( put a little something in the hat).. Ms. Hall shines as she does  “The Bst Man” and Ms Smith’s rendition of “Be Good or Be Gone” will make you think.

How fitting that this production be in a dining spot, where the waitresses ARE the waitresses and these young actors rely on their “Tips”  for their evening’s work. Trying to balance trays in this intimate spot before the show and during intermission and then handling out the checks during the “Closing Time” song shows just how talented these performers are as well as the dedication they have to putting on the best show possible under extraordinary cisrcumstances. Unlike most of the musical productions doen by this troupe, “Pump Boys” is not a dance show, but where they do have a few smaller dance numbers, the choreography by James Beaudry works.

“Pump Boys and Dinettes” will run at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre through January 15th with performances as follows:

Thursdays at 7: 30 p.m.,Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m.

The No Exit Cafe is located at 6970 N. Glenwood Avenue in Rogers Park.

Tickets range from $29-$34 and can be purchased at Dinner is optional for $20 ( excluding beverages,taxes and of course “Tips”. You can also call 800-595-4849 or 773-347-1109


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