What: Peter 'n' Chris and the Mystery of the Hungry Heart Motel.
Where: Phoenix Theatre, University of Victoria
When: Continues to Oct. 20
Rating: ??? 1 /2 stars (out of five)
"Dying is easy, comedy is hard" goes the old saying.
Comedy, such a fragile thing, is notoriously difficult to do well. That Vancouver's Peter 'n' Chris succeed so cleverly is a testament to their considerable talents.
Peter 'n' Chris are the comedy duo Chris Wilson and Peter Carlone. The young men have emerged as critical and popular stars on Canada's fringe theatre circuit. These University of Victoria theatre grads (class of '08) have triumphantly returned to their alma mater to perform Peter 'n' Chris and the Mystery of the Hungry Heart Motel.
The 70-minute romp spoofs a myriad of pop-culture touchstones. There are references to scream flicks such as Psycho and The Shining (with Wilson doing a hilariously bad Jack Nicholson impression). There are tips of the ball-cap to the cheeseball detective mystery genre Ã la Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.
A doddery old guy (Carlone) "ruins" the show almost immediately, revealing that the desk clerk at the Hungry Heart Motel is the crazed killer. From then on, Peter 'n' Chris - dressed in retro-style satin baseball jacket - offer fast-paced sketch-comedy shenanigans.
The writing is genuinely funny. There's plenty of breaking-the-fourth-wall horseplay. For instance, a speech by Peter (or was it Chris?) is preceded by the other partner quipping, "Oh, it's a monologue." There's a funny scene in which the pair are forced to share the same bed, which results in gropings and mutterings.
Peter 'n' Chris are clever with physical humour, such as slo-mo escape scenes accompanied by strobe light. They've performed a lot together - 70 performances of this piece alone. It shows on stage. Their honed comic timing is impressive.
The show's main flaw is lack of a sustained plot. Wilson and Carlone, who co-wrote the piece, have obviously decided storyline is secondary. That's fine for a half-hour performance.
Yet over 70-minutes, we yearn for a more cohesive narrative arc, even if it's a silly one. Froth is fine, but eventually the human need to hear a story manifests itself.
To be fair, this observation may be flavoured by the choice of venue. Unrelenting hijinks is de rigueur for fringe theatre festivals.
In a more formal proscenium theatre setting, such as the Phoenix's Roger Bishop, it seems a bit incongruous.
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