MRDR She Tweeted
Murder mystery dinners are a growing trend across the nation. Like the Jukebox musicals running rampant on Broadway, they are entertaining for people of all ages and backgrounds. However, you don’t have to buy a plane ticket and book a room to enjoy a murder mystery dinner. These events are growing increasingly popular for corporations and at home parties with options to lead it yourself or hire a troupe to put on a show for you. Yet, as with any burgeoning trend, there is a wide range of quality. We all remember knock-off Adidas sneakers and coach purses, and murder mystery dinners are no exception to this societal need to jump on board the band wagon of hot trends, even if it’s only for appearance. Having seen The Murder Mystery Café perform last year at St. Croix Off Broadway Dinner Theatre, I was hopeful MRDR She Tweeted would be a repeat, high quality production while simultaneously not be a poorly written, even more poorly executed, “knock-off” performance. I was not disappointed.
The play itself unfolds in four scenes, each between 15 and 25 minutes long, with one of the three dinner courses being served following each of the first three scenes and the big reveal in the final. We, the audience, portray honored guests at the Laplighter mansion, home of the richest family in Wisconsin history, where the remaining 10 million dollar Laplighter fortune is to be won or lost via the “Bonanza” – a glorified trivia contest – appropriately devised considering patriarch Leopold Laplighter amassed his fortune in the black market trivia trade in the 1930’s and 40’s. The services of Chase Taylor, P.I., have been procured to provide security during the event to protect the 10 million in bonds and to ensure the safety of the guests. Ironically, despite his keen eye and his presence, a crime is still committed and someone is murdered.
One of the biggest twists and strongest assets of the script itself is that the murder does not occur at the beginning of the show, but rather not until early in the second half. This clever technique ensures the audience focuses on character developments and backstory in order to deduce who the killer is as opposed to weeding through excuses, alibi, and motive for two hours in order to solve the mystery. Simultaneously, it pulls the audience in from the start as it feels much more your typical theatrical performance and eliminates any pressure felt to figure out “who done it."
From our first glimpse of Lee Adam's physical representation of the burnt out, flask-carrying Chase Taylor, P.I., we are set up for what to expect throughout the night. He is a fount of hilariously lame-ass puns, dry, side-splitting one-liners, and “free-styling” physical comedy. Adam's, however, is the one constant in a ninety-minute run of shifting characters. Each of the other actors in the play performed not only one character perfectly, but two; a fact pointed out near the end of the show when one character blurts out, “Don’t call the cops. Everybody’s already playing two characters!”
Lee Adams' real-life partner in crime, Laura Adams' portrayals of the wealthy Linda Laplighter and the contrasting aging Aunt Harriet Laplighter – a delightful old bag, seemingly a cross between Vicki Lawrence's character of Thelma Harper from the sitcom “Mama's Family” and Rondi Reed's Peggy Biggs, Mike's mother from the CBS series “Mike and Molly” – were played to perfection and flawlessly executed. Gene Larche’s returning role of Richard is a delightful blast from the past and the newly introduced, split personality Uncle Herb is like a Russian nesting doll; characters within a character, each just as pleasant, unique, and hilarious as the previous.
The two newest members of The Mystery Cafe troupe, Shana Custer and Eric Webster, are brilliant additions to an already stellar cast. Custer soars as the social media crazed, high adrenaline reporter Sally, and absolutely killed with her mannerisms as Linda Laplighter’s eight-year old offspring Dot, who seems to be made up of a pinch of Lily Tomlin, a dash of Gilda Radner, a touch of Ellen DeGeneres, and sprinkled with Tourette Syndrome. The vocal variations Webster executes, from East coast mobster Don Laplighter to the “forever stuck in puberty” squeak of the lawyer Darrin – much like Rick Moranis on steroids – to the unexpected shift to charming and bold game show host, keeps the audience waiting for more!
As with all of Adams' shows, improv plays a large role and every member of the cast is up to the task. The intellectual prowess each shows with their uncanny ability to react to unanticipated events on stage and audience reaction is mind-blowing and hilarious each and every time. This is particularly apparent in the largely improvised mystery reveal at the end of the show. The improvised banter between Adams and Custer as Chase and Dot alone is worth the price of admission.
When it is all said and done, sight gags, puns, audience interaction, improv, the “Millionaire” game show theme, dinner, Twitter, trivia. and a murder mystery make for one amazingly entertaining evening. Lee Adams and The Mystery Café have definitely figured out the formula – lay the foundation with a solid script, build on it with an incredibly talented cast, and cap it all off with quick-witted improv, and this show, as Taylor boasts, “stands out like a running chainsaw at a daycare center.” #YOUWONTBEABLETOLOOKAWAY
The Mystery Café’s MRDR She Tweeted is now playing at St. Croix Off Broadway Dinner Theatre, located at the Hudson House Grand Hotel in Hudson, WI. The show runs Fridays and Saturdays through November 1 (no show on Halloween). A $56 price tag includes dinner and dessert with a nonalcoholic beverage, show, tip, and tax, and will send you home smiling. There are two 11:45AM lunch matinees on October 11 and November 1 for $42. Get your reservations by calling 715-389-2394 ext. 333 or order them online at stcroixoffbroadway.com. Also be sure to like them on Facebook at facebook.com/SCOBDT for much more insight and information.
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St. Croix Off Broadway Dinner Theatre
1616 Crest View Drive, Hudson, WI 54016 Box Office: (715)386.2394 ext. 333
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