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Mr. Hobbs Vacation

a Comedy
CATEGORY : COMEDY DRAMA
by Wally and Jeannie Hinds

COMPANY : Kudzu Playhouse [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Kudzu Playhouse [WEBSITE]
ID# 3434

SHOWING : July 10, 2009 - August 09, 2009

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Ellie Hobbs plans a summer vacation in Florida over the objections of her husband, Howard, who thinks it will cost too much money. She invites their married daughter to join them along with their 12 and 17 year old daughters. Things began to fall apart the minute they arrive. To complicate matters, they end up with some wacky next-door neighbors and a surprise visit from her sister and her family. Just when poor Howard thinks things couldn’t get worse, chaos breaks loose from every direction.

Kudzu Playhouse
10743 Alpharetta Highway
Roswell, GA 30076
Phone: (770) 594-1020
Fax: (770) 594-1318
email: kudzuplayhouse@aol.com


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Jeannie Hinds
Bryan Grant Daniel Carter Brown
Snooky Daniel Carter Brown
Caroline Miller Linda Clay Niles
Phillip Phillips Rial Ellsworth
Mary Beth Miller Melissa Goodfellow
Ray Miller Wally Hinds
Madison Grant Audrey Hirshberg
Snake Omar Ingram
Mandy Hobbs Morgan Keel
Abby Hobbs Katie Keel
Fallon Grant Fallon Keel
Jane Hobbs Grant Larken McCord
Howard Hobbs Brink Miller
Mona Phillips Sheila Oliver
Ellie Hobbs Barbara Scott Sherry
Stone Ben Tieslau
Mr. Snodgrass Hudson Wallace
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REVIEWS

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Taking a Break
by Dedalus
Thursday, August 13, 2009
3.5
Every now and then, I have to toss my “critic’s bag of standards” out the window, and take a break from judging plays based on some literary ideal. Every now and then, I have to just “go with the flow,” and enjoy a play that has no higher aspirations than to give an audience a laugh or two. Often, when I have friends and family involved in a show, my “strictness glasses” come off and I indulge my biases (clearing my conscience by letting all y’all know them beforehand).

Such a case is happening now, with “Mr. Hobbs’ Vacation,” a piece of comic fluff written by Kudzu Playhouse founders (and owners) Jeannie and Wally Hinds (with whom, indeed, I have become friendly over the past couple weeks). This show is a Kudzu perennial, often revived, always pleasant to experience.

I could take the time now, to catalogue each and everything wrong with this script – an ending right out of the “never do this” Writing 101 rule book, characters going off stage for two minutes then coming back talking about an hour’s worth of off-stage activity, jokes that fall flat, local references that are almost out-of-date, characters a razor’s edge from caricature (or a razor’s edge within).

But, the bottom line for me was, this show was a lot better than I expected. The performances are alive and funny, the characters sharp and contrasting, the dialogue character-centric and precise. And, more to the point, I found myself laughing a lot more often than I do at many professionally-produced supposed comedies.

Brink Miller again plays Howard Hobbs, an overworked CPA dragged onto a “family vacation” by his wife Ellie (a nicely underplayed Barbara Scott Sherry). Quicker than you can say “I’ve seen this before,” the vacation descends into utter catastrophe, complete with unwanted relatives, obnoxious neighbors, bratty grandkids, and a summer house in need of ICU. All poor Howard wants is a little “me” time with his fishing rod, but some new emergency is always ready to rob him of the escape he needs.

Rial Ellsworth and Sheila Oliver nicely ham it up as the loud and obnoxious neighbors, Real-life sisters Morgan and Katie Keel play Howard’s bickering daughters Mandy and Abby as if they were real-life sisters. Larken McCord adds a nicely neurotic note as Howards adult daughter Jane (she with the bratty kids), and Ben Tieslau, Dan Carter Brown, and Omar Ingram are hysterically over-the-top as three punk-rock friends of Howard’s daughter. Mr. Ingram, in particular, has absolutely no understandable lines, but managed to crack me up every time he mumbled his incoherent sounds.

Playwright Wally Hinds himself turns in the best work I’ve seen from him as Howard’s cheesy and conniving brother-in-law Ray. His wheeling and dealing, snobbery and hypochondria, whining and control-freak Monopoly Godding all help to build a convincingly unpleasant housemate. A special nod also needs to be made to him for convincing his twin brother to join the cast as a gold-toothed handyman with a taste for septic tank repair.

If I were to give the Hinds’ some recommendations for the next trip through the typewriter – Howard Hobbs comes across as the calmest, sanest character on stage. He desperately needs a bigger touch of desperation. I hate to say go further over the top with the catastrophes, but that’s never a bad idea. Right now, the piece is very episodic, one scene going to another, one catastrophe coming in sequence. Perhaps if there was more if a progression that a series – say, bad event one leads to bad event two, with each one being exponentially more chaotic than the one before. And, for crying out loud, fix that ending.

What we do have now, though, is a very funny piece, a good platform for strong community theatre actors to flex their weirdness muscles, a fine exercise in comic timing and slow burns, and a nicely produced, directed, and performed comedy that tries to do little more than make you laugh.

That it succeeds so well is a testament to all involved.

Now, about that break we were talking about needing—

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)


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