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Funny Savannah Sipping Society at The Dio (Review) June 15, 2018

Posted by ronannarbor in The Dio, Theatre.
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The Dio presents its third Jones Hope Wooten comedy The Savannah Sipping Society and it is a funny, well-acted summer treat. Jesse Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten come from the world of tv sitcoms (The Golden Girls being their most notable) and it is no surprise that their lightweight stage comedies feel a bit like binge-watching a bunch of episodes of a new one that all have the same characters…the snooty one, the carefree one, the funny one, and the one with a dilemma.

Brenda Lane (dilemma), Alisa Mutchler Bauer (snooty), Kez Settle (funny) and Amy Morrisey (carefree) are all talented actors who find just the right level of comedy and humanity in their roles (left to right in photo). Most of the action plays out on the verandah of the snooty one’s Savannah home, and yes, most of the evening they are sipping beverages of the (mostly) alcoholic type.

Norma Polk’s lovely costumes often take a central role here (deliberately). Susan Craves directs with a steady pace that keeps the audience involved. Eileen Obradovich creates excellent props and has the unenviable task of washing all those glasses. Set, Lighting, and Sound Design are excellent by Matt Tomich.

There’s a bit less glue to hold this piece together than the previous outings at The Dio (The Dixie Swim Club and Always a Bridesmaid) but it’s a pleasant and fun show for a summer outing, with a yummy dinner to boot.

Recommended.

The Savannah Sipping Society continues through July 22nd at The Dio, 177 E Main Street, Pinckney, MI 48169. Reservations required: Diotheatre.com or 517-672-6009.

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Odd, Funny, 70’s comedy “Murder at the Howard Johnson’s” at the Dio (Review) February 5, 2018

Posted by ronannarbor in Plays, The Dio, Theatre.
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Molly Cunningham, Joshua Brown, and Dale Dobson. Photo Credit Michele Ankiker.

The Dio’s current offering “Murder at the Howard Johnson’s” by Ron Clark and Sam Bobrick is far and away the oddest local theater offering of the young season – and it is a hoot. You might be in mind of a mystery, maybe about a murder at a Howard Johnson’s? Well, that is not the case here. Instead, think of this more as an episode of the 70’s “Love Boat” stretched out into a full length comedy. And think of the writing and jokes about the same as those on that little ditty of a tv series (and its not a surprise given the authors backgrounds in writing comedy). It is a bit like a Neil Simon show before rewriting the jokes to makes sure they land right. Or a Benny Hill episode in which the actors need to deliver lines instead of running around the neighborhood.

Take three great actors (outstandingly deadpan Molly Cunningham, spritely and funny Joshua Brown, and the exceptional Dale Dobson as comic foil) and mix in a hilarious set by Matthew Tomic and solid comic-timing direction by Steve Debruyne and you have a very fun way to spend a few hours of dinner and theater. The evening’s menu is inspired — Howard Johnson’s fare!! Its comfort food for cold Michigan evenings.

I don’t want to get into the plot much, except to say that the intermission-less three-scene comedy takes place in the late 70’s at a Howard Johnson Hotel around three holidays — as time passes, you get some insight into the dysfunctional relationships at play between husband and wife, wife and lover, and husband and dentist. Don’t ask. Important to the plot are a bottle of blue nun, a hotel window ledge, a gun, pills, and a surprise for the third scene. None of it is too offensive (though keep in mind these jokes were written in the 70’s so there is a touch of that Love Boat-ness I told you about). But these are equal opportunity jokes. Cunningham gets as many quips and double entendres as the guys, and its all in good fun.

It took a few minutes for the audience to catch on that they were watching a satire comedy, but once they did the show took off and the audience did too. I found myself laughing frequently, not because the lines are particularly that funny, but because the exceptional cast brings them to life in a way that begged me to have as much fun as they were, and it worked.

The show is an oddity that ran for 10 previews and 4 performances in NYC in 1979. I am happy to say that the residency at the Dio will include more performances than their Broadway days — and may it be a happy run! While the show isn’t a masterpiece, neither is it a bomb. I am not sure why it didn’t catch on in NYC, though the plotline about running off with your dentist and leaving your husband probably wasn’t a good idea in post-sexual revolution NYC in 1979.

Forget the silly title, and go spend a few hours with these lunatics.

Recommended.

Murder at the Howard Johnson’s continues at the Dio Dining and Entertainment through March 4th. 177 E Main St, Pinckney, MI 48169 — diotheatre.com or (517) 672-6009 for tickets which sell fast at this venue. Includes dinner.