Take one mystery man with amnesia, add a hostile woman who can’t decide whether the man is her missing husband, and you create one heck of a frustrated police detective.
That, in a nutshell, is the plot summary of the latest Central Alberta Theatre production, which opened Friday at the Black Knight Inn dinner theatre.
Forget-Me-Knot, by David Tristram, is a comedy with a rather thin plot line, but enough wise-cracking dialogue and good performances to keep the audience entertained while guessing is he, or isn’t he?
The question plaguing police Inspector Monroe is whether the befuddled man who was picked up wandering the streets of Leicester, England at 4 a.m. is one Robert Zeinfeld.
Zeinfeld, an accountant for a publishing firm, was last seen boarding a train to Blackpool, where he was supposed to be going on a business trip, but he never checked into his hotel.
With Blackpool missing a man, and Leicester having a surplus one, Monroe figures there’s a good chance the amnesiac he’s saddled with is Zeinfeld.
But things get tricky when the rich and imperious Mrs. Zeinfeld is brought in to identify her husband. First she indicates a match, then she says she’s made a mistake.
The increasingly annoyed detective asks whether her husband has ever lost his memory before. Oh yes, all the time, Mrs. Zeinfeld replies, “On birthdays . . . anniversaries . . . ”
Much of the humour in Forget-Me-Knot is of this domestic variety, which tends to be a big hit with the dinner theatre crowd.
The best thing about Friday night’s show was Bob Greig, who played the world-weary Inspector Monroe with an impeccable Scottish brogue. Greig never overdoes the role, and thus becomes the embodiment of a long-suffering policeman who’s seen and heard it all.
Besides his growing irritation with the nonsensical twists and turns in the Zeinfeld case — which eventually turn up a possible mistress of the mystery man — Monroe must also suffer the passive-aggressive slights of his off-stage assistant George, who can’t be bothered to answer the phone whenever the inspector rings his extension.
Although the audience never sees George, through Grieg’s effective acting efforts and great comic timing, George takes on the mystique of other never-seen characters, such as Niles’s wife Maris, from the TV series Frasier, or Charlie Brown’s teacher. The antagonism between Monroe and George certainly adds to the hilarity.
The rest of the four-person cast also delivers: CAT veteran Dennis O’Brien plays yet another frantic character, the amnesiac, who seems desperate to discover his own identity.
Samantha Maddaugh, as Mrs. Zeinfeld, shows a good flair for delivering zingers — usually at her husband’s expense.
And Deborah O’Brien, as mistress Samantha, eventually serves up one humdinger of a surprise.
The good thing about this play, which was effectively paced by director Erna Soderberg, is that just when the audience is on the verge of not caring any more whether the mystery man is Zeinfeld, another comic bit will come along to reel the crowd in.
Forget-Me-Knot makes a good case for the old adage that the fun lies in the journey, not the destination.
Another positive is the police station set, by Patrick Beagan, which comes complete with break-away walls painted an institutional puce green, for extra authenticity.