The Hungry Heart Motel: Where Guests Die of Laughter

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October 19, 2012

The Mystery of the Hungry Heart Motel
Written and performed by Chris Wilson and Peter Carlone
Phoenix Theatre, 8 p.m. Until Oct. 20

The comedy pair Peter N’ Chris, UVic alumni Peter Carlone and Chris Wilson, take audiences for an energetic ride in The Mystery of the Hungry Heart Motel. The play is a creepy Nancy and Drew murder romp, where two actors take turns being possessed by hilarious characters.

A self-conscious satire where slow-motion murder makes you guffaw and blood shoots out in shiny confetti, The Hungry Heart Motel spoofs horror classics like Psycho and The Shining. One can’t help cracking up at Chris’s Jack Nicholson impressions and Peter’s regrets about hiding from the murderer in a frozen maze. It’s clever, witty, and plays on larger-than-life archetypes.

Few props haunt the stage, but I never missed them. There’s an interactive, improvisational feel as the actors morph into human showerheads or break out into spontaneous sound effects. Clearly, the play is well choreographed. Peter and Chris are in perfect synch from their Sesame Street-style boy band moves to a Scooby Doo-inspired chase scene that knocked my socks off. Jinkies!

This play knows it’s a play as characters comment casually on backstory and seem aware of how ambient sounds heighten their fear. The foggy void on stage makes space for the limitless imagination. We even get to see the Heebie Jeebies, Chris’ fears personified, in a dynamic use of lighting and acting. The plot almost takes a back seat to the characters who explore the stage together like an overactive imagination. Still, just when we think we know where the road is curving, the plot takes a sharp, three-dimensional jump to the right.

There’s something for everyone in the show: physical comedy for some and wordplay for others. The snappy dialogue had me feeling I was part of a looped laugh track. I giggled like a little girl throughout. But I’m not totally convinced that the old codger/storyteller needed to lead us into the creepy tale. Yes, he sets the tone and invites us to follow, adding layers during a physical rewind of the story later, but the play could have revved up without him. However, the pained painter, who feels more alive than ever while dying, made the play for me.

The title track from Bruce Springsteen bursts in and out, a thematic trigger for murder. It will haunt you for hours later! Murderer and victims all have a hungry heart in one way or another, even if it’s just for clean bedsheets. My main complaint is I didn’t get to clap enough at the end. This show left me hungry for more Peter n’ Chris.

Leah Callen is a fourth-year writing student


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