Everything is magical at the Van Gogh Cafe, where possums are the purveyors of peace, miniature muffins multiply to mitigate the miseries of manifold moppets and the food sometimes even cooks itself. Set in the little town of Flowers, Kansas, “The Van Gogh Cafe” begins with a circumstance as paradigmatic as “once upon a time”: A father and daughter, left by the side of I-70 because Mama preferred the glitz of the big city, make it on their own by the sweat of their humble bodies. A partnership between Filament Theatre and Community Tavern brings Cynthia Rylant’s 1995 children’s book to life with charming vivacity, adapted by Andrew J. Lampl and directed by Julie Ritchey. Set in a real restaurant, each episode is accompanied by a taste from the little diner’s menu: A creamy pie, a savory pastry, a zesty salad.
The chapters of the story, anchored by Marc (Jose Nateras) and his spunky daughter Clara (Aissa Guerra), are sweet and strange, tuned to the seasons like haiku. There’s the time when everyone’s temper tantrums get tamed and triumph is punctuated with potato chips. There’s the time when lightning and prophetic inspiration strike simultaneously, unexpectedly yielding lemon meringue pies. There’s the time when an elegant stranger comes through the diner’s doors with a photograph and a memory and won’t leave without a last dance. There’s the time when a woman dressed all in lace gives Clara a gift that won’t stop growing. There’s the time when a seagull appears in the snows of February, inciting a newsflash and a wacky intervention by kale farmers.
The actors are chipper as they take turns as narrator, swap costumes and roles, scurry out with the latest course and spruce up the café with tinsel and moods. The stories come and go like clouds, resolving faster than a Chicago sky in spring. The plates of food by Joey Beato are heaped so full it’s impossible to leave hungry. (Irene Hsiao)
Filament Theatre, 4038 North Milwaukee, (773)270-1660, filamenttheatre.org/vangogh, $30-$45. Through October 3.