Harry's Friendly Service
by Rob Zellers
directed by Ted Pappas
originally produced at Pittsburgh Public Theater,
through June 28, 2009
Harry’s Friendly Service takes place in 1977 during a crippling steel mill strike. The blast furnaces are silent. Thousands are out of work. There’s clean air to breathe but nothing to eat. Harry’s Friendly Service, a full-service gas station, doubles as a destination for card playing and spirited debate. The proprietor, Harry Stanchek, is also a small-time bookie who is constantly at odds with the crime family that controls all the gambling in the city.
As a young and despondent widower, Harry sent his daughter off to live in a convent twelve years earlier. He has done a thorough job over the years of putting these painful circumstances out of his head, but it’s about to all come back to him when his daughter Emily walks into the station and back into his life. It is an Aristotelian drama about a generation of blue-collar workers who believed in the American dream of hard work and common sense.
Playwright Rob Zellers, who has been the Education Director at Pittsburgh Public Theater for twenty years, takes audiences back to his native Youngstown, Ohio during the waning days of a once vibrant economy grounded in the steel industry. "It’s a play about a father and daughter, but in my storytelling, I have also tried to capture the spirit and feel of that desperate time in our industrial history when a way of life was disappearing forever."
From Pappas, Producing Artistic Director of Pittsburgh Public Theater:Rob Zellers is a gifted writer with the ability to imbue real-life situations with theatricality and a sense of event. Using extraordinary language to create scenes of everyday life is but one of his strengths as an author. Though the action of Harry's Friendly Service takes place in Youngstown, Ohio during a labor dispute, there is a universality inherent in the situation and in his characters which makes the play magnetic and moving, as well as hilarious. The quality of the dialogue and the truthfulness of the writing clearly indicate that we should be optimistic about the play's future life.
Director: Ted Pappas