Recently ventured up to Hapeville again for Academy Theatre’s Murder at the Howard Johnson’s if for nothing more than nostalgia’s sake – who else remembers eating at HoJo’s? The ice cream? The orange roof beckoning from the highway? The script by Ron Clark and Sam Bobrick could also be called nostalgic, as it was written and takes place in the 1970’s. A bit of fluff, you might say; a light comedy that definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously. The setup, the gag is this: A wife and her lover have invited her husband to the motel to murder him. He’s a nice guy, actually – too nice. He treats his wife well and refuses to give her a divorce, so….All of which makes for some nice character work, some lovely physical comedy and a sense that, yes, we’ve gone back in time to a more innocent age where murder can be the punch line.
The three cast members – Kay Bohan, Jeff Cooper as the Lover and Andres Salgado as the husband – work well together; their timing was pretty good and the jokes land, mostly. Characters could have been played a little more broadly – this is not the place for realism. Still, I felt that a lot of key moments got ‘slid’ through – beats were sloppy, ill-defined. Would responsibility for a general sense of a good but not a tight, well honed performance be placed at the feet of the director Rob Raissle? I’d say so.
In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a general statement I’ll probably regret: Since returning to the ATL 8 years ago, I’ve seen about a hundred shows….here’s my sense of things: The ATL has a great and deep pool of terrific actors but…Truly gifted and accomplished Directors are harder to find.