A brutally funny love triangle hits dinner theater stage

(Featured photo from left Dave Bellmer, Ernie Williamson and Karen Brotherton who are part of Murder at the Howard Johnson’s” at Fort Gordon Dinner Theatre)

On some nights, while attempting to direct a rehearsal for Murder at the Howard Johnson’s, Avery Villines has felt a little more like Carol Burnett watching the antics of Harvey Korman and Tim Conway.

“It’s all Ernie,” said Villines of the seasoned actor Ernie Williamson who plays the role of Paul in the three-person comedy that opens at Fort Gordon Dinner Theatre Sept. 15.

Like Conway, Williamson has natural comedic timing and will deliver a line straight-faced sending Dave Bellmer and Karen Brotherton in a round of giggles that they sometimes can’t control.

Villines said she’s told the actors they have to get all their giggles out before the audience fills the theater, and they’ve assured her they will. She’s not worried because she’s worked with them before.

While the actors may be chuckling on the inside during the performance, Villines is sure audience members will be in stitches.

“Dave, Ernie and Karen are a bit of a powerhouse,” she said.

Brotherton said she’s been having a blast with the two actors with whom she’s taken the stage in other shows.

“At the end of the day, you’re on stage with your friends having fun. And it is fun, really fun,” she said.

Both Villines and Brotherton are tight-lipped about the plot because to tell too much is to give away all its secrets.

However, at the heart of it is a murderous-love triangle. Well, not really, because the people trying to kill each other are really bad at it, said Villines emphasizing their ineptitude.

When casting the show, Villines gave actors a specific scene discussing murder to read with the instructions that if they gave the slightest hint that they were serious about hurting someone, they wouldn’t be cast. The characters needed to be over-the-top and funny but not cartoons.

Apparently, the word is spreading that it’s going to be a great experience for the audience because Villines said they are close to selling out.

 Murder at the Howard Johnson’s will be performed Sept. 15, 16, 22 and 23. Dinner will begin at 6:45 p.m. with the show at 8 p.m. A matinee performance will be at 3 p.m. Sept. 17 with lunch at 1:45 p.m.

 Tickets range from $30-$55 per person with military, student and senior discounts available. Special dietary requests should be made when calling for reservations at (706) 793-8552.

Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at Sign up for the newsletter here.

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