Review: ‘Pump Boys and Dinettes’ at Sacramento Theatre Company

Pump Boys and Dinettes

The pump boys know how to get things done.

The pump boys know how to get things done.

Photo courtesy of Cindy Lawton

Wed 7pm, Thu 7pm, Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 2pm & 7pm; Through 2/16; $25-$40; Sacramento Theatre Company, 1419 H St., (916) 443-6722,
Rated 5.0

Along a stretch of Highway 57 in North Carolina, between the towns of Frog Level and Smyrna, lies L.M. and Jim’s gas station, and the Double Cupp Diner run by sisters Rhetta and Prudie Cupp. The boys, along with employees Jackson and Eddie, pump gas. The sisters sell tasty pies and pour hot coffee (the second cup is free). These are the pump boys and dinettes of the musical now at Sacramento Theatre Company.

The play doesn't really have a plot. It's more a character study revealed in a rockin' countrified beat of a half-dozen characters, their lives and loves and dreams.

Pump Boys and Dinettes was conceived, written and originally performed in 1981 by John Foley, Mark Hardwick, Debra Monk, Cass Morgan, John Schimmel and Jim Wann. It debuted on Broadway in 1982. Subsequent productions all attempt to recreate the friendly charm of that original cast, and the STC production has really nailed it.

Sam C. Jones plays Jim and rocks a mean guitar; Brady Wease is L.M.; Darrell Johnson plays Jackson; Rebecca Mason is Rhetta; Sidney Raey-Gonzales is Prudie; and Michael LaPlante is Eddie, who doesn't talk much, but when he sings the touching “Mamaw,” he can bring tears.

Director Abbey Campbell guides this outstanding group of actor-singer-musicians with a deft hand and never takes the easy step of mocking the culture. Rather, she gives us an opportunity to experience a genuine taste of a simpler, maybe purer, slice of American life.