By Daniel Skora
There are probably any number of reasons why people take a room for the night: an overnight stop on a long vacation trip; an illicit romantic tryst; temporary shelter after a fire or flood at home. But murder? And at that most family friendly of all places, the Howard Johnson’s?
The Dio is presenting “Murder at the Howard Johnson’s”, playwright Sam Bobrick’s comedy/suspense/farce. It’s a fun show, filled with laughs and plot twists and not a bit taxing on the brain.
Arlene Miller (Molly Cunningham) is having an affair with her dentist Mitchell Lovell (Joshua Brown). Her husband Paul (Dale Dobson) is a used car salesman and a patient of Mitchell’s as well. So far, Paul hasn’t connected his ill-fitting bridge with his wife’s infidelities. Mitchell gave him an improper fit just to inflict pain on the man who’s married to his mistress.
It’s easy to see why Arlene has gone shopping for a new lover. Paul’s a dud, from the grey polyester suits and grey ties he wears (he owns five on the same tie) to the ignorance he displays about his wife’s desire for a little excitement in her life. Paul’s been asked to stop by a room at the Howard Johnson’s to see about making a deal with someone who’s purported to have a bunch of hot cars to sell. Little does he know that lying in wait are Arlene and Mitchell, who have tired of carrying on their affair clandestinely and are planning a little surprise that will allow them to go public with their love.
Murder weapons abound, and as the play’s three scenes stretch out over a year’s period, it should be obvious that murder at the Howard Johnson’s doesn’t happen quickly. As the play progresses, it might be a good thing to have a spread sheet on hand in order to keep track of who’s murdering who and why.
Absurdities and preposterous dialogue are as thick as the chocolate fudge on a HoJo sundae. There’s also an air of obsolescence that wafts through the play, first performed in 1979, not only in the fact that Howard Johnsons are harder to find than a mosquito during a Michigan winter, but in style and structure. The cast is uniformly good with Dobson shouldering the bulk of the laughs turning in a performance as hilarious as he’s ever done. The play runs less than two hours and is performed without intermission. As always, dinner is server before the performance. Appropriate to a Howard Johnson’s-themed storyline, the Dio’s buffet features clam strips and other goodies you were apt to find on the menu of one of their restaurants.
“Murder at the Howard Johnson’s” is directed by Steve DeBruyne, assisted by Carrie Sayer. Set, sound, and lighting design are by Matt Tomich. Costume designer is Norma Polk, with props by Eileen Obradovich. The show runs through March 4th. For tickets and information, call the Dio at 1.517.672.6009 or go online at www.diotheatre.com. The Dio Dining and Entertainment is located at 177 E. Main Street in downtown Pinckney.