Theatre Review: ‘The Waffle Palace’ at Horizon

By Manning Harris
fmanningh@gmail.com

Horizon Theatre has revived its 2012 summer hit “The Waffle Palace—Smothered, Covered, and Scattered” (that’s the full title) through March 17.

Written by Larry Larson and Eddie Levi Lee and directed by Lisa and Jeff Adler, opening night was completely sold out. In these uncertain times, audiences want to laugh, and “The Waffle Palace” certainly obliges. In her pre-show speech, Ms. Adler wryly notes that this show is not an intellectual exercise, nor is it intended to be.

What it does reveal is a slice of life found at 3 a.m. at the Waffle House (the obvious inspiration) in a Midtown Atlanta location.  Writers Larson and Lee revealed in an article in the AJC that the idea for the play came after reading a piece, also in the AJC, called “Eatery Seems Like Weirdness Magnet.”

It seems that every few years what I’ll call “diner theatre” emerges on the scene, whether locally (like “Della’s Diner”) or nationally (“Alice,” the popular TV sit-com which ran almost ten years in the 70’s and 80’s).  Remember actress Polly Holliday’s immortal, “Mel, kiss my grits!”?

In “Waffle Palace” owner John (Larry Larson) is being pressured to sell his diner to some murky corporate interests; business is down, largely due to a nearby bridge’s construction, which blocks the usual highway entrance to the restaurant.  Connie (Marguerite Hannah) and new perky new employee Esperanza (Maria Rodriguez-Sager) offer what support they can.  Actors Enoch King, Allan Edwards, Mary Lynn Owen, and Eric Mendenhall play multiple roles with gusto and fine comic timing.

There are musical interludes, some terrific sight gags (my favorite is Enoch King and Eric Mendenhall suddenly forced to share a double bed, which pops up vertically in the wall—hilarious), and some supremely funny comic moments.  When a neophyte to the Palace innocently asks for pancakes (as “Gone With the Wind’s” Aunt Pittypat would say, “My dear, it simply isn’t done”), the request literally rocks the cosmos.

And there is romance.  You may be “looking for love in all the wrong places,” as the diner’s jukebox might play, but suddenly there it is.  I’ll let you discover who’s the lucky couple.

Weird things do happen in late night diners, involving everything from lottery tickets to comic police tasering (I know—that would seem to be an oxymoron) to weddings.  There’s more than meets the eye in the land of hash browns, scrambled eggs, treachery, and appearances by Big Foot. Incidentally the set, by Moriah and Isabel Curley-Clay, is first rate and irresistible.

Ultimately it’s the fine theatrical acumen of the actors and directors that sell this show (and sell it they do), despite the fact that it’s about 10 minutes too long (around two hours and 40 minutes, including intermission).  But at its best, it’s got the audience in the palm of its hand.  I got the distinct feeling that many were repeat customers—obviously finding those waffles too good to resist.

For tickets and information, visit horizontheatre.com.

3 Responses to Theatre Review: ‘The Waffle Palace’ at Horizon

  1. larry larson

    January 28, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    Thanks for the great review. We worked on the play to tighten and address areas where the play could be improved from the first run.
    Just a small correction. The play actually runs 58 minutes first act and about the same in the second. It never starts on time at the Horizon due to sell outs and seating issues and the Lisa talks for about 5 to 7 minutes before the curtain goes up. Also intermission runs longer because so many people are trying to drink wine and beer and scarf down waffle cookies. Ed and I have cut the play to the bone and it would be tough to cut stuff that the audience is laughing their asses off. We rarely start before 15 minutes after an 8 oclock curtain and we try like hell to get the audience back in the theatre to start the second act. Both acts run under an hour and I challenge you to find another play in this city right now that holds people in their seats and laughing till the end and giving a show a standing ovation night after night. The show does not run 2 hours a forty minutes. The actual play is under two hours, hopefully well spent.
    Larry Larson

  2. Manning Harris

    January 29, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    Thank you for writing, Mr. Larson. I did indeed enjoy the play, and you’re right about that laughter from the audience! I’m certainly not sitting there with a stopwatch, and I’m sure you’re accurate about Lisa’s opening speech (which might have been a tad longer opening night, when I saw the show), as well as the audience taking its time at intermission, and the running times of the acts. However, when the show was over and I was leaving the theatre, it was 10:40pm, and my companion for the evening verified that. That’s where I got the “around two hours and 40 minutes” part. But it’s a really fun show, and I wish you all success–which I think you’re having!

  3. David G. from South Carolina

    February 1, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    No matter how long this play ran, I had the best time. It was well worth the 3 hour drive from S.C. to see it. I hope only the best for the cast and crew and many thanks!!

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