Five on a Honeymoon

Ruth Hale, matriarch of the vast Hale Center Theater empire, has written numerous plays, but few so witty and unusual as “Five on a Honeymoon,” cowritten with husband Nathan and playing at the Hale Center Theater in Orem through March 29.

The show begins with a “Brady Bunch”-style theme song, and we meet the characters: Connie (Debbie Lloyd), an over-protective mom whose husband has died; Chris (Brent Whitlock), her authoritarian new husband; and her three spoiled-rotten kids Nedra (Ashley Radebaugh), Debbie (Cassandra Hill) and Junior (Verdon Walker). With a push-over mom, stern father and precocious kids, you know you’re on a collision course with wackiness!

And there is much sitcom-style goofiness going on. There’s the wacky neighbor kids Mooney (Andrew Allman) and Drag (Nathan Abbot), and a feisty old grandma (Ruth Hale her own self). Everything wraps up in a preposterously convenient manner at the end, everyone learns a Valuable Lesson, and there is much hugging all around.

What saves “Five on a Honeymoon” is that it is self-aware: The show KNOWS it’s cheesy, and revels in it. Aside from the theme song, there’s also sitcom-esque music at the beginning and end of each scene, as if to remind us, “We know that joke was lame. See, it was lame on purpose!” The show is a parody of dumb ’70s sitcoms like “The Brady Bunch” — and yet it somehow manages to BE one, too.

Of course, just acknowledging that your script is half-baked doesn’t necessarily excuse you from it. Some of the dialogue here is bad — not a parody of bad dialogue, but actual bad dialogue. Teen-ager Nedra’s hippie boyfriend Mooney says, at one point, “My little doll does as she pleases, you see?” And Nedra herself says, of step-father Chris’ nephew Johnny (Ryan Radebaugh), “He’s an Idaho yokel who leaves me cold.” Who would say that? Even in a play that is mocking lame TV shows, how could anyone talk like that?

There is much humor in this show, particularly from the outspoken grandma and the no-guff-taking Johnny (“She’s a determined little heifer, ain’t she?” he says in regards to Nedra). Those two have most of the best lines spread between them, though everyone else gets a moment or two to shine as well.

The plot is exactly what you would expect; the conflict is that Chris wants to teach his step-children the value of work, whereas Connie wants to go on raising them as lazy, selfish slobs (character traits which she turns out to possess even more than her oafish children). The kids don’t like their new dad — I counted, and Nedra says “You’re not my father,” or a variation of it, four different times — until he purchases their love via a boat and takes them on vacation. (I have only slightly over-simplified it.)

As mentioned, there is hugging at the end, everyone winds up happy, the people who are supposed to fall in love actually do, and the show ends with a recurring joke recurring yet again, with the appropriate music to punctuate it. It’s a silly, harmless show with some solid laughs and genuine entertainment value.

By the end of this play, the mother proves herself to be every bit as spoiled and irritating as her children, maybe even more. What these characters all needed was less hugging and more slapping. But I digress.