The Tavern, Shapeshifters Theatre, at the Irish American Heritage Center. Composer George M. Cohan, best known for penning “Give My Regards to Broadway” and “Over There,” was also a playwright. His The Tavern is a mystery-farce about a diverse group of people forced by a fierce storm to seek shelter at a roadside inn. And in this production, the most dramatic part of the play is the weather: the thunder crashes are quite impressive.

The cast is just loud. With lines such as “This is no time for lollygagging–it’s a dangerous time,” the ensemble has little choice but to play up the melodrama. But that’s not all they do; under Richard Cotovsky’s direction, they revel in it. Screams and shouts abound as the characters try to make it through this night of sudden arrivals, odd discoveries, and errant gunshots.

The enigma of the evening is the Vagabond, a long-winded mystery man who desperately needs an edit. And Eamonn McDonagh, who plays him, has stage presence but is an extraordinarily tiresome fool. The rest of the cast are equally divided between those who overact (among them Pete Fitzsimmons, Sarah Tritschler, and the particularly infuriating Jerry Zacharia) and those who underact (among them Vera Kelly, Scott Pasko, and Eamonn O’Neill). When the Vagabond declares one scene to be “a big melodramatic moment,” one wonders how he was able to distinguish it from all the rest.

–Jenn Goddu