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'Murder at the Howard Johnson's' is Tipping Point's current killer comedy

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"Murder at the Howard Johnson's" at Tipping Point Theatre

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In “Murder at the Howard Johnson’s,” by Ron Clark and Sam Bobrick, poor Arlene Miller’s is facing a dilemma – two men are in love with her, and she can’t make up her mind which to murder.

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Her devoted husband Paul gives her everything she wants, except happiness. But as Paul points out, that’s such a small part of her life.

And her hot-to-trot lover, also her dentist, Mitchell, makes her feel young and passionate again. But is he cheating on her with that cute dental assistant? What kind of a man cheats on his mistress?

“Murder at the Howard Johnson’s” is Tipping Point Theatre’s fast-paced comedy, plunked squarely in the early ‘80s. The play consists of three short acts, each played out in a room at the Howard Johnson’s. The hilarious scenic design by Monika Essen perfectly captures that hideous mod-meets-mediocre, orange and turquois hell that HoJo’s did so well. Even the room’s chandelier is a perfect confusion of glass bubbles – vintage gauche. Each act takes place in a different room of the hotel – which we know because the blobbed, swirled and splashed “modern art”painting is dutifully switched out three times. Otherwise, the rooms are identical. The ‘80s fashions designed by Suzanne Young are spot on, as are the top-forty hits that play at walk-in and during intervals (Amanda Ewing, Sound Design).

Directed by Tipping Point Theatre’s Artistic Director James R. Kuhl, it is clear that the company had a ball putting this production together.

With three of the area’s best actors starring in the production, the dialog is perfectly paced and the wacky visual humor fills the spaces in between.

Cheryl Turski makes her first TPT appearance as the lovely but fickle Arlene. Turski, an assistant professor of theatre at WSU, has appeared at several area theaters in plum roles – including “The Game’s Afoot” at Meadow Brook Theatre and “Miles and Ellie” at the Purple Rose Theatre.

And her co-stars – Dave Davies (as Paul Miller) and Wayne David Parker (as Mitchel Lovell) – are something of a favorite comedy duo at TPT. Having worked out their comedic interplay in such shows as “The Love List” and “Looking,” Davies and Parker are perfect sparring partners, and the comedic thrusts and jabs hit home.

“Tip­ping Point audiences especially love their comedies,” says Kuhl, “and this one is sure to live up to that high expectation; they should plan to laugh a lot!”

“Murder at the Howard Johnson’s” runs from through March 9, 2014 at the Tipping Point Theatre, 361 E. Cady Street in Northville. The curtain rises at 8 p.m. Thurs­days through Saturdays, with matinees at 3 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. A special matinee performance has been added on Wednesday, February 19, 2014. Tickets are $29 to $32 for adults and $27 to $30 for students and senior citizens; call the box office at 248-347-0003 to secure your reservations.

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