Peter ‘n’ Chris and the Mystery of the Hungry Heart Motel functions as a satire of the genre that brought us The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Scooby-Doo. The show doesn’t want depth, interesting framing/ending device that gives us a twist (and an interesting curtain call) notwithstanding. It doesn’t really want mystery; the identity of the murderer is revealed both in their Fringe Guide blurb and in the opening “creepy” monologue. The show honestly just wants us to have a good time, and I must say that I did, mostly due to the spot-on physicality of the two comedians.
To spend a lot of time on plot in this review would be silly, because it’s not like the playwrights do. Peter (Peter Carlone) and Chris (Chris Wilson) are on a road trip to some location “irrelevant to the plot.” The radio keeps going dead, when it’s not playing “Everybody’s Got a Hungry Heart,” and, once they inevitably crash their car, Peter insists they check out the creepy motel, because it is probably home to some kind of mystery. The innkeeper has a hard-to-kick habit of murdering his guests, and mayhem ensues.
The jokes rely on the usual subverted expectation, the “that didn’t go as well as I planned,” and the usual “isn’t it funny that boys are touching in a manner that could be interpreted as sexual.” Occasionally, the banter seems a little ad-libbed in delivery; I couldn’t tell if it was a sign of actors keeping lines sounding fresh and unscripted or making it up as they went along.
The best stuff relies on self-awareness, mining the duo’s friendship and comfort with each other, and making fun of traditional horror tropes (and irony), along with a couple of surprisingly sweet moments. Audience participation is minimal but used to hilarious effect with a “Choose Your Own Adventure” moment that can only lead to blame. But the reason to see Peter ‘n’ Chris is their assured and riotous physical humour. Whether mimicking a car crash, a shower, things that go bump in the night more and more elaborately, slow motion, or, my favourite, fast motion (seriously, I could watch them speed up time for quite a while with continued delight), these two are completely synchronized and assertive in their movements. A chase gag where Chris becomes either himself or the creepy murderer depending on which side of Peter he’s running on goes on for some time but never stops being funny.
This show won’t change your world, and the humour isn’t particularly amazing, new, or groundbreaking. But it will make you laugh - genuinely, not out of awkwardness – for an hour, and I think, particularly for a Fringe show, that’s plenty.