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Theater Review: "Waitress"

Photo credit:
Joan Marcus

The quick turnaround time on San Diego's touring stop of the Broadway musical "Waitress" means by the time you read this you were either given the tickets by someone who couldn't go, or you're a season pass holder with nothing better to do on the weekend.

Either way, you are going to be glad you went as this production is one of the more entertaining ones that has played to a packed house at the Civic Theatre in recent memory. 

Based on the 2007 movie of the same name, "Waitress" takes place in the south and follows Jenna (Christine Dwyer) of the title who works at a pie shop off the main highway. It's all very cliched for this particular slice of life and the metaphors aren't baked that deep, but what it does have is charm. 

At a turning point in her life thanks to a positive result of a pregnancy test, Jenna has no friends outside the ones she works with at the restaurant; the sassy Becky (Maiesha McQueen) and the frenetic mess named Dawn (Jessie Shelton).

Their boss Cal (Ryan Dunken) also works the cook's line in a "kiss my grits" sort of way, and Joe (Larry Marshall) the owner of the shop is a regular customer, he is very picky with his orders but not the sage advice. 

Then there's Jenna's husband, the backward cap, flannel shirt wearing blue collar worker named Earl (Matt DeAngelis). He's of course, everything a bad husband from the south should be; verbally and physically abusive, manipulative and oh so misunderstood. To make matters worse, a handsome new OB-GYN comes to town and threatens to complicate all the dysfunction even more. 

Jenna is also the chef who bakes the cafe's pies every day, and figuratively fills each one with whatever feelings she experiencing at the time giving them names like "Berry the Bullshit! Pie" or "Sweet Victory Pie."

If it sounds like I'm being a bit (or a lot) cynical that's because I am. The play is all refined sugar folded into a tart and flaky crust using only the best commercial grade butter and flour money can buy. 

And that's really all "Waitress" wants to be, a simple dessert to appease the sweet tooth, but so delicious and satisfying you forget you're filling up on empty calories. It's the perfect dessert for a long day or week. 

The wonderful score was written by American pop singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles and each song is as easy to swallow as the last. Fans will argue that "Everything Changes" is the centerpiece, but everyone knows that "She Used to Be Mine" is the showstopper and on the night I saw it Christine Dwyer delivered it with so much heartbreaking aplomb, the audience applauded for about two minutes after it was over.

You're not going to get a profound message about the history of politics or even an epiphanous awakening about the human spirit and its ability to overcome life's seemingly insurmountable obstacles in "Waitress."

What you will get is a toe-tapping easy to understand recipe of feel-goodness that takes a narrative made up of basic ingredients and turns them into a well-mixed story with so much flavor and zest you will crave a second helping. 

The details

“Waitress” plays through December 2, 2018 at San Diego Civic Theatre, 3rd and B Streets, downtown.

Saturday at 2 pm and 8 pm; Sunday at 1 pm and 6 pm.