Murder at Howard Johnson’s

Rated 3.0 There are a couple of murders afoot in Rancho Cordova. These deeds are being plotted with precision at the local Howard Johnson—well, with as much precision as three bumpkins can manage, that is.For the next six weeks, Garbeau’s Dinner Theatre is reproducing a version of the economy lodge—cheap landscape paintings and bolted-down headboards—for a crime scene. The theater recruited a talented trio to portray clumsy wannabe killers for the farce Murder at Howard Johnson’s.

This over-the-top comedy is about three self-centered dopes trying to dupe each another in a love triangle gone loopy. In the first act, airhead Arlene (Kelly O’Hurley) and her dentist lover Mitchell (John Pellman) lure Arlene’s husband Paul (Steve Brock) to their HoJo love nest to off him. Havoc ensues. The second act, six months later, finds Arlene and Paul crafting the killing of Mitchell, the paramour who cheats on Arlene. Mayhem breaks out. In the third act, again six months later, the boys want to bump off the bimbo.

O’Hurley gives us a funny, self-delusional sexpot; Pellman provides the physical sendups as the self-involved dentist; and Brock deadpans as the self-improvement-seeking crazed cuckold.

It’s simple fare, but it’s done well, with much physical comedy, silliness and funny lines. There are no hidden messages, just the one to sit back and laugh at the absurdities of these lowdown, lying, cheating, murder-mangling wackos. The energy drops off in the third act, but there are still enough laughs to make the trip to Rancho Cordova’s HoJo worthwhile.