Pump Boys and Dinettes | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Pump Boys and Dinettes 

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PUMP BOYS AND DINETTES, Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. Even urban theatergoers can feel nostalgic for an idealized rural milieu. That's the appeal of this wildly popular blue-collar musical revue set in a friendly truck stop, the Double Cupp diner on Highway 57, where two spunky waitress-sisters and four good ol' service station attendants serve up songs. "You can eat and get gas" is their motto. Jason Edwards's staging expertly exploits the play's intimacy (just a greasy spoon and a garage), simplicity (only six singer-musicians), and stereotypes (guys avid for fishing and drinking, gals ready with coffee and homemade pies).

It's easy to sink into such a setting. Playing up a storm on their kitchen implements, warmhearted tap-dancing hostesses Kelli Cramer and Jacquelyn Ritz make even city slickers feel welcome, and Ritz's blues ballad "Be Good or Be Gone" and Cramer's rueful "The Best Man" reveal how well they've mapped out love. (In a bit of overextended whimsy, they also work the crowd for tips and conduct a postintermission raffle.) Edwards himself is good-natured cornpone philosopher Jim, a likable lug with an incoherent yen for one of the sisters ("I'll clear all the beer cans out of my car if you go out with me!"). Slick-haired Andrew Blendermann garners guffaws describing the night Dolly Parton was almost his. John C. Havens is dour as Jackson, hopelessly stuck on a mall cashier, and Walter Rahn as Eddie is mainly and strategically silent. Diving into the country-western, bluesy, doo-wop "pump rock" score, the performers put on a high-octane hootenanny. --Lawrence Bommer

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