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The Waffle Palace: Smothered, Covered, and Scattered 24/7/365

a World Premiere
CATEGORY :
by Larry Larson & Eddie Levi Lee

COMPANY : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
ID# 4328

SHOWING : May 11, 2012 - July 01, 2012

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

From births to marriages to Big Foot sightings, police chases and lottery wins, anything can happen at 3 AM in the Waffle Palace. Inspired by amazing real life events at Waffle House restaurants, Larson and Lee (award winning playwrights of Horizon's Charm School) let loose with this roller coaster of humor, music, and imagination in which John Picket and his multi-racial staff battle to keep their Midtown diner open against heavy odds. The Waffle Palace: a place where everyone is welcome, and the only unforgivable sins are throwing waffles and under-tipping.


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REVIEWS

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Padded, Contrived, and Scattershot
by Dedalus
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
2.0
In 2007, after enjoying �Charm School,� their comedy about political correctness and corporate faddism, I called Larry Larsen & Eddie Levi Lee �an Atlanta treasure as writers, as actors, and as artists.� Now comes �The Waffle Palace � Smothered, Covered, & Scattered 24/7/365,� and all I have to say is, I�d like to eat those words, preferably with plenty of syrup.

Conceived as an homage to all the quirky things that have happened at Waffle House, and as a tribute to Southern Hospitality, the play, to me, came across as an unfunny wallow in stereotypes, a tasteless mixture of styles and moods, and as a meandering and (far too often) just plain dumb waste of time.

John runs a family-owned �Waffle Palace� just off the 14th-Street exit of Atlanta�s connector. It�s 2009, when that exit was closed for a year for re-construction of the 14th-Street Bridge, so business on the over-night shift is, well, to be kind, non-existent. On top of that, a business conglomerate wants to buy the place to make way for a (very) profitable commercial venture.

That�s about it. We get stories of the cook�s desire to start a church and the new waitress�s contrived romance with a garbage collector, neither of which are developed to a believable level. We also get John�s totally pointless delaying tactic in giving the developers an answer � we know from the start he doesn�t want to sell. And we get a boatload of �quirky� stories on the Palace�s customers, all of which are about as quirky as a National Enquirer exposé. We get the overused and almost-a-cliché [Deleted by the Spoiler Police]-left-as-a-tip story, a dead [Deleted by the I-can�t-believe-they-pulled-out-this-lame-chestnut police] that turns out to be a [Deleted by the I-can�t-believe-they-pulled-out-this-stereotype police], a pair of cops who do a painful-to-sit-through hip-hop number about the joys of self-tasering, a Jeff-Foxworthy clone who gives us a �You may not be in a Waffle Palace� routine without a single funny line, a proctologist with way too many butt jokes, a guy from Texas who � well, is just a guy from Texas, a punk band, etc etc etc � all adding nothing but padding to an already too-long running time.

At one point, we get an expensive-looking (and admittedly fun to watch) special-effects sequence in which the Gates of Hell apparently open because someone dared order pancakes (lame!), we get a representative from the Real Estate demons who turns out to be a literal devil (lamer!), we get a funeral for someone we never met in which we�re asked to sing along with �Amazing Grace� AND �The Dreidel Song� (lamest!). We even get a guitar-playing interlude in which the pre-recorded guitar is too loud for the lyrics of the song to be heard.

We get a whole hash-load of stuff, none of which is particularly interesting or funny. What we DON�T get are characters who go beyond surface single-quirk stereotypes. One waitress is an is-she-Catholic-or-Jewish immigrant from Nicaragua named Esmeralda Bernstein, another is a ruler-of-the-staff Earth Mother who is always espousing �Connie�s Rules.� And John himself shows no depth at all, following a predictable path, and, to quote Dorothy Parker, runs the gamut of emotions from A to B. And the whole Evil Corporate Empire stealing a family business plot trope has been done to death � and here we get absolutely nothing new to give it any spark of interest.

I REALLY did not like this play.

Maybe part of my dislike is based on my personal distaste for Waffle House itself. I always resent pandering waitresses who call me �Hon� and have always left the place with an upset stomach. I�ve never experienced the sort of camaraderie and �Southern Courtesy� this play seems to claim can be found on the menu there. And I haven�t returned to one in years.

This is, admittedly, one of the best-looking sets I�ve seen in a while. Front row seats are really demi-booths (missed opportunity � having the cast keep the front-row audience supplied with coffee throughout), and it looks as if the behind-the-counter kitchen can actually provide breakfast for us all. Unfortunately, the lighting mix is a bit scattershot with shadows-in-the-wrong-places and the sound mix is often a bit too loud.

Still, the cast almost makes it worth the trip. Larry Larsen himself plays John, and I appreciated his efforts as an actor much more than his efforts as a writer. Maria Rodriguez-Sager plays Esmeralda as an innocent abroad, and I liked her in spite of her clichéd thicker-than-molasses accent. And Marguerite Hannah brings to Connie a pleasant warmth that is downright welcoming. Then we have Enoch King, Allan Edwards, Lala Cochran, and Eric Mendenhall playing the other twenty-plus roles in a whirlwind of costume and character quick-changes that can be downright dizzying while remaining impressive.

But, it all is in service of script that I found far too lame and forgettable. One of the few good lines is �A four-dollar breakfast is like a ten-dollar [hooker] � you never know what you�re going to catch.� Watching �The Waffle Palace � etc etc etc� was like eating at Waffle House � I felt pandered to and left the place with an unpleasant feeling in the pit of my stomach.

And I really REALLY hate being called �Hon� by someone I don�t know.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)
�
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