MURDER AT THE HOWARD JOHNSON'S, Prairie del'Arte Theatre Company. Some plays should only be performed at tollway dinner theaters, and Murder at the Howard Johnson's is one of them. But for some reason that only God and the Prairie del'Arte Theatre Company know it's playing at Victory Gardens Studio, where there isn't a lounge singer, an interstate highway, or a fried mozzarella stick in sight.
This "comedy-thriller" by Ron Clark and Sam Bobrick is a painfully derivative collection of "take my wife, please" gags, predictable plot twists, and the sort of dirty jokes preferred by makers of adult board games and couples like the Ropers. Paul, a slick dentist, and Arlene, a brassy femme fatale, conspire to do in her used-car-salesman husband and collect the insurance money. When their plot fails, zany high jinks ensue: someone gets accidentally poked in the rump with a shot of Novocain, a parody of dance sequences from Saturday Night Fever and Flashdance is presented as contemporary humor, and the line "Good thing so-and-so's not around anymore" is routinely followed by a fortuitous knock at the door. The performers are adequate and William J. Norris's direction is polished and serviceable, but what the producers had in mind when they decided to stage this sophomoric slice of retro-cheese is beyond me.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Patrick Harold.