A country concert with sass, of course!
Country music isn’t just about a sad story, or even about the acoustic guitars. It’s also about big hair, Southern twangs, sassy confidence and a whole lot of love—the great big, small-town kind of love. And that’s just what Triad Stage’s performance of Pump Boys and Dinettes delivered last Sunday.
In short, the production, directed by Bryan Conger, is not what one would think of as a traditional play. There isn’t much dialogue between the characters and there’s no point-by-point plot with a climax. It’s really more of a theatrical concert—a country show with flare and good-natured wit.
A collection of upbeat, toe-tapping songs makes up the meat of the show, along with several instruments that are played live on stage. These actors are musicians, too.
The variety of instruments includes a piano, electric guitars, acoustic guitars, a harmonica, an accordion, a bass and a cowbell, as well as the more creative type that really put the “country” in music, like wooden spoons, a frying pan and scrub brush, pots and pans and a rolling pin.
I’ll admit, I’m not much of a country music fan, so I wasn’t sure how I would take to the performance, but I still found myself getting caught up in the lively rhythms and even dancing a little in my seat.
Besides getting swept into the energetic beats, I was entertained, too, by the light-hearted, funny and relatable lyrics.
I enjoyed Rhetta Cupp’s feisty number, “Be Good or Be Gone,” putting one mechanic back in his place after choosing a guy’s fishing trip over romance.
For the ladies that love country music just for the sexy tightfitting jeans, well Pump Boys has that, too. In fact, pump-boy Jackson (Gabe Bowling) has a nice set of biceps in his cut-off shirt and one confident smile that crawls across his adorable baby face.
Frankly, you just can’t help but love ‘em. Even though your instinct tells you there’s a bit of a playboy beneath that straw cowboy hat, you smile anyway and think, “Man, I wish he’d buy me a drink.”
For the guys, there’s quite a bit of relatable humor, like in the song “Taking it Slow,” in which the car mechanics explain that it might take a week or maybe more to fix a Winnebago because it takes time to do these things right. Actually, anyone that has been strung along by a car mechanic will get a kick.
The set, designed by Timothy Mackabee, is about the only thing that pulls the production beneath the label of “play.” Designed after an old-fashioned diner one may have found in the 50s or early 60s, the set consists of a long eat-in bar with cushy yellow stools and a couple of tables with yellow-padded chrome seats. There’s also a couple of glass bottles of RC Cola in the background.
LED lights lined around the backdrop and beneath the bar quickly transform the “diner” into a bit of a concert hall when the singers really get going, especially when Jackson jumps on top of the bar and dances his guitar all the way to the end.
Having a few country roots of my own, I also appreciated how the performance embodied the good nature of Southern folk, friendship and just enjoying the simple things.
Occasionally a friendly small-town phrase was included that reminded me of my grandparents’ farm out in the middle of nowhere in Chadbourn, NC. When a waitress asked, “Have you been eatin’ like you should?” I pictured myself visiting in my grandmother’s country-style kitchen.
Apparently, that resemblance was no accident since the production’s background was based on an old Chapel Hill gas station with wooden floors, a potbelly stove and music on Friday nights.
Just like loving, country folk, the cast sat with the audience, pulled dancing partners up on stage and even gave an encore at the end of the show when requested.
At the end of the show, the cast was given a standing ovation by men and women who were left with an added glow to their cheeks—a product of feeling good and feeling loved. !
Triad Stage performs Pump Boys and Dinettes at its Pyrle Theater, 232 S. Elm St., Greensboro, this week through May 4. Tickets are $10-$48 depending on seating and day of performance. For tickets (including pay-what-you-can fares) or more information visit triadstage.org or call 272-0160.