Need a laugh?
Then you don’t need to go any farther than Ladysmith Little Theatre, where Alan Watt, Maureen Molyneaux and Bill Johnston are taking the stage in the mad-cap farce Murder at the Howard Johnson’s.
This suspenseful comedy, which opened Feb. 7 and runs until Feb. 24, is set in the late 1970s at a Howard Johnson’s Motor Inn and follows a husband and wife and the wife’s lover over the course of a year in their tumultuous love triangle.
It’s often over-the-top, laugh-out-loud comedy, as Arlene and her lover Mitchell plan to kill Arlene’s husband Paul, and then the tables turn and then turn again.
There are many very funny moments in this play, but it’s also an interesting glimpse into a time and place when people were searching for fulfillment and happiness and were trying to find themselves— these three just have a particularly zany way of trying to fill the empty spaces they find in their lives.
Arlene is almost 50, and she’s bored with her life and with her husband, Paul, a used car salesman whose entire wardrobe is grey and who buys her watches but can’t offer her the fulfillment she is looking for.
When we meet her, she is having an affair with her dentist, Mitchell, who wears a lot of colour and loves dancing.
Arlene is starting to ask questions like “What makes us feel so lost? What makes us feel so incomplete?” She’s restless and desperate for answers, and right now, the only place she is finding them is in the arms of Mitchell.
“I found myself, and you didn’t even go out looking,” she tells Paul. “I’ve outgrown you. I’ve matured. I’ve blossomed. I’ve spent too many years sitting around waiting for something to happen.”
Arlene wants Paul to give her a divorce, but he won’t, so she and Mitchell decide to kill him. And that’s when things really turn comical. It turns out they are not the most skilled murderers.
Fast forward six months later to July 4, and Arlene is going to kill herself. She has moved in with Mitchell, and she just caught him with another woman. Paul, who has been taking night classes to try to become less shallow, comes to her rescue, and before too long, he and Arlene decide they should kill Mitchell.
Move the clock ahead again to New Year’s Eve, and Arlene has left Mitchell for Malcolm Dewey. She is still married to Paul, and Mitchell and Paul decide to kill Arlene by hanging her and pinning her murder on Dewey.
“There isn’t enough rope in the world to hang this wave of self-indulgence,” Arlene tells her two lovers. “You can’t hang an idea.”
The play is a funny look at a trio of characters searching for love and happiness and trying to find the meaning of life.
It can’t be easy to be the only three actors in a play — Molyneaux, Watt and Johnston are almost always all on stage — and they all do a fantastic job. Their acting is great, their physical comedy and facial expressions are just right for this play, and their strong performances are augmented by a great looking set and fun 1970s music. The hotel housekeepers add another element of hilarity between scenes.
Murder at the Howard Johnson’s was written by Ron Clark and Sam Bobrick, and the Ladysmith Little Theatre production is directed by Gordon McInnis.
There will be evening performances of Murder at the Howard Johnson’s Feb. 14-16 and 21-23 at 8 p.m., along with matinee performances Feb. 17 and 24 at 2 p.m. at the Ladysmith Little Theatre.
To purchase tickets, visit the theatre’s website at www.ladysmiththeatre.com or call 250-924-0658.