Stage roots still show in “Hard Scrambled,” which helmer David Scott Hay adapted from his play. Ensembler set among colorful diner denizens feels like an old play, with hard-boiled patter and a soft center evoking the late Williams Inge and Saroyan. But pic’s retro feel is rendered pleasing overall by scribe’s linguistic flair and the enjoyable cast. It’s best suited to the small screen, where “That ’70s Show” regular Kurtwood Smith’s familiar face will count.
In a neat turnabout from his irascible suburban dad sitcom character, Smith plays seen-it-all Benno, a longtime crook turned cook at downscale Alice’s Diner. Biz has been dismal, making Alice (Beth Grant) wish she’d sold the joint long ago. But it’s home to Benno, who enjoys sassing regulars and playing surrogate father to busboy Scotty (Eyal Podell). When Alice has a suspicious “accident” and clownish hanger-on Joe (Richard Edson) tries to buy the place, Benno borrows mob cash to outbid him. That wad’s theft leads to a violent, somewhat convoluted resolution of plot threads. Story has some gaps and cliched aspects and works best when raffishly humorous; perfs carry it along. Low-budget package is adequate.