Phil’s Diner is open for business and serves up delights. Actually Phil is still struggling a bit with how to attract more customers. Hence Circle Theatre’s founding dad Doug Marr serves up a re-visit to a 1983 Diner Theatre episode from Benson days called “Phil Contemplates Putting a Jukebox in the Diner.” This time the action swirls at Harold’s Koffee House in Florence.
Real pie and real coffee greet you as the diner staff gets its act together. You’re welcomed, served and entertained witnessing Phil’s amusing, continuing troubles. Daryl the dishwasher barely understands what he’s supposed to do, like what should be the ratio of soap to water. Young Martin seems almost equally confused, anxious about his wife’s imminent delivery of their first baby. These guys need help. Phil could stand having someone working there who is less helpless. But Phil is a pushover, keeping them on as well as giving free soup and coffee to singing street person Stan, aka Stella. Waitress Grace is beginning to feel that she’s in the wrong place at the wrong time.
These jolly travails unfold as visiting businessman Rudy drops by for coffee and conversation and out of towner Buddy pops in from a convention hoping for a good time…Grace will do.
The lively fun proliferates all over the joint, counters, booths, stools. Director M. Michelle Phillips keeps it moving, with her performers paced and interpreted to a fare thee well. Rob Baker’s Daryl stays goofily funny. The earnest conversations between Mike Markey as Phil and Steve Gibbs as Rudy come across as real and natural as the crisp crust of in-house-made pie. And Ryle Smith’s raucous Buddy pulses with so much energy and sass that customers might want to follow him, like a Pied Piper, off to his next destination for more fun.
Much of the eight-member, well-knit ensemble has a mutual history going back to Doug Marr’s days as an emerging local playwright, director, producer, performer. Call this revival a labor of love, also aiming to keep Doug himself flourishing. The Reader’s Leo Adam Biga points out that the show’s proceeds are to help offset Doug’s major medical expenses following a series of recent serious surgeries. There’s more: https://thereader.com/theater/doug-marr-circle-theatre/.
Consequently, table and counter top donations are encouraged following the 60 or so minutes of the performance. FYI: The Koffee House can’t seat a lot of people. Reservations are advised.
Have a slice of life with a serving of fun. Sweet stuff.
Phil Contemplates Putting a Juke Box in the Diner runs through June 17, Harold’s Koffee House, 8327 North 30th St. Florence. Fri. Sat. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $25 circletheatreomaha.org.