Georgetown, sweet Georgetown – the town so gorgeous they named it George-ish (almost certainly not their official motto, though we haven’t looked into it). It’s not a proper Island summer without a trip or three Down East to PEI’s own scenic GTA (Georgetown area), partly because said area is home to the historic Kings Playhouse.
Your nostalgic natterer’s fondness for same is well-documented. I’ve performed there, produced there and seen many a show there since I was a wee lad: thrilling as a kid to the horrors of Dracula with my parents; chuckling along with my grandparents at the homespun wit of David Weale; cackling at the lunatic antics of Lorne Elliott with my wife; watching my daughter’s wide-eyed reception of Haunted Georgetown.
The Playhouse’s current summer season includes Murder Inn, a 2016 comedic murder-mystery farce written and directed by Island playwright Jonah Anderson, starring Ian Byrne, Gordon Cobb, Bianca Heuvelmans and Sheryll O’Hanley.
O’Hanley plays embittered innkeeper Mrs. Inninn, owner-operator of the isolated Inninn Inn, where two sets of identical twin brothers – Pierre & Paul (both Byrne) and Fred & Ted (both Cobb) get storm-stayed on their way to a twin convention. Heuvelmans rounds out the cast as feisty Latin maid Alejandra, who communicates via Spanish, song & dance, and plenty of drinking on the job.
The Inninn Inn’s name becomes a slightly heavy-handed running gag, even spawning an extended Abbott-&-Costello-esque misunderstanding dialogue that never fully clicks, due in part to Byrne’s delivery – his characters both have anger issues, but Byrne leans so heavily into said rage that it feels a bit overdone at times, even by the broad standards of farce. A lighter touch might serve Anderson’s oft-unsubtle text a bit better, and Byrne tends to be more fun in low-key moments, such as when Paul doubles as the play’s narrator.
Similarly, Cobb seems most effective in some of his softer bits: for instance, he’s genuinely creepy during Ted’s ode to how he loves hunting just a little too much, and likeable when his brothers are being quietly friendly; but some of his characters’ bigger, showier moments, like Fred’s raucous laughter and high-spirited tomfoolery, don’t always feel genuine. O’Hanley’s a bit muted but mostly effective as Inninn, and has some good physical comedy bits.
The script’s gags don’t all work, and the murder mystery plot doesn’t fully make sense; but Anderson’s play is pretty funny in spots, such as meta-dramatic moments like the bit where Byrne & Cobb nod to the cynical economics behind actors in dual roles (an aside well-played by both men), or a scene where one actor remarks on how odd a deliberately-unconvincing dummy meant to be his twin looks; and while a sequence where the entire cast embarks on a karaoke showdown worthy of oddball vocalist William Shatner feels random and pointless, it’s undeniably entertaining.
Speaking of entertaining, Bianca Heuvelmans is worth the price of admission all by herself as Alejandra, a role that forces her to express herself largely through reactions, facial expressions and body language. Hilarious, charming and immensely watchable, Heuvelmans steals every scene she’s in and nets most of the night’s laughs with alluring ease.