Theatre Review: ‘The Waffle Palace’ at Horizon
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.