A killer time: Supper sleuths solve murder mystery as Bosque Arts Center serves up a classic Agatha Christie-esque “Whodunit” dinner at Tin Building Theatre
Upon the untimely and suspicious death of well-known, arrogant millionaire Samuel Sapphire, family, friends and staff gather at Mystery Manor for a dinner and the much anticipated reading of the will. More than mourn his passing, they are bound by greed and hoping for a piece of the estate. With the killer still on the loose, who might strike again if their piece of the inheritance pie is threatened, guests had to be wary of anybody and everybody. Will it be the all-seeing and all-hearing butler, or a faction of slighted and bitter business partners?”
In a classic Agatha Christie-esque “Whodunit” style, the Bosque Arts Center’s inaugural Murder Mystery Dinner presented that premise Feb. 4 in the Tin Building Theatre.
Prior to the dinner, BAC program director Deb Phinney sent guests an email with a designated character, together with some costuming and acting tips. Once arrived at their table, an envelope awaited the guests with a further character description, the inter-personal relationships with other guests, possible secrets and a set of starting objectives – necessary for the character to discover evidence and uncover the murderer. The sheer amount of information needed to be processed first before the amateur sleuths and Sherlocks mixed and mingled.
Take Scarlet Red, for example, Sapphire’s ex-wife and former business partner – a man-eater Fiery and feisty as her name, with many flings over the years, but can anyone every really replace her first true love? Or the recently widowed Mrs. Sapphire, mother of Sapphire’s three daughters. Has she outgrown the perfect marriage and perfect husband? There are rumors she had a fling with one of the staff. And how trustworthy could a Reverend turned accountant be? A retired person of the cloth, Reverend Greene found his true calling in the fields of green – money, that is. Did the reverend cook the books over the years for his own gain?
The 30 dinner guests were invited and encouraged to role play a character in the backdrop of this sinister dinner party. Between courses of a delicious meal, they interrogated other guests, gathering clues, rumors, family secrets and evidence needed to solve the heinous crime put before them. Between Sapphire’s eccentric ex-wife, his spoiled-rotten daughters to his spying servants and provocative pool boy everyone is suspect; everyone has motive; everyone has opportunity.
The manor staff gathered many secrets and knowledge of intrigue. Does that make them most suspect? Antoinette the maid feels her loyal service over the years must be rewarded. Don’t let her quiet and unassuming demeanor fool you. She has many layers and carries as many secrets. Married to the genuine and faithful Mr. Midnight the butler, they have a son Mr. Slate. Born and raised at the Manor, the dutiful and diligent chauffeur Slate seems moody and resentful at times. Midnight might be the only innocent soul at the manor. Or maybe not?
Don Burgundy the charming and charismatic pool boy has charmed many of the lady visitors to the manor. Will that benefit him, or just the opposite? And what about Sapphire’s Sister Madame Mauve. Over the years, she and her push-over son Pierre Pink lived off her brother’s wealth. Can they afford to keep up their present lifestyle or do they need more?
At each seat there was also cash. The guests were highly encouraged to use this money to participate in blackmail, bribery, extortion or other devious and creative purposes to collect information or just to get rich. And in this hotbed of infidelity, duplicity and intrigue, everyone was keeping something secret. In fact, everyone was ready to slander the other at a price.
Dr. Iris, the family psychologist with lot of insider knowledge, wasn’t afraid to sell information for the right price. He also offered pills – harmless Tic-tac placebos – to those needing a tranquilizer during the reading of the will. Samuel’s son-in-law, the selfish and ruthless Igor Ivory will do whatever necessary to get ahead. And his standard answer to the many blackmail threats he received was “I don’t care.” Sheriff Indigo took the laid-back, observant approach, patiently waiting while he enjoyed the food and beverages. Indigo knew that sooner or later, the evidence and culprit would present itself.
A second, sealed envelope after dessert led to more clues, more bargaining or blackmail power. Rumors, hearsay and accusations filled the room. And the presentation of the evidence set more brain cogs turning. Much to everyone’s delight, the evening’s denouement came with a devious twist. And to round off the evening, several participants received award certificates. After a lot of interaction and bargaining for information, just five guests – using their gathered information clues, and the evidence supplied – came to the right conclusion about the murderer’s identity.
John Kappus as Mr. Slate, the chauffer received the “Super Sleuth” award for uncovering the culprit. Amassing $1,500 with his wheeling and dealing, Dr. Bill Mitchell as Mr. Midnight the butler bagged the “Mr. Money Bags” award. “Dressed to Kill” went to Diane Mobley as Chef Tangerine, with glamorous Lady Lavender close at her heels. Judith Baker’s performance of Sapphire’s attorney and reader of the will earned her the evening’s “Drama Queen” award. She was authoritative and professional, and not afraid to carry out the last wishes of her client
“I had a couple of contacts at home yesterday telling me how much they enjoyed the event, that normally doesn’t happen, so I think that is a good indicator people had a good time,” Phinney said. “Matt Menefee and I were both pleased by the quick interaction amongst the guests as it appeared they were quickly engaged in the murder scenario.”
Chef Oz – and no, not one of the murder mystery character’s names – and his team from University High School in Waco, along with their master detective Menafee played a major role in the murder mystery evening by offering a deliciously prepared dinner while the guests helped solve the dastardly deed. Keeping in with the murder theme, the four-course meal had blood-red in each of the dishes – blood orange in the salad, black-red cherries in the short rib gravy, and red raspberry in the delectable dessert.
Blood even found its way into the “French 75” cocktail – blood dripping off the coupes. Originating at Harry’s Bar in Paris during World War I, the name of the delightful concoction of Tanqueray gin, simple syrup, lemon juice and bubbly comes from the French 75 millimeter artillery guns known for their accuracy and for packing a wallop. Sommelier April Cole paired wines perfectly to go with the meal with an Italian red and a Spanish white.
“The drinks and the food provided by Chef Oz, Chef Ruark and Chef Dunham turned out awesome. Plates returning to kitchen were empty is a good sign!” Phinney said. “After the evenings completion of activity and guest comments, it appeared obvious to me this event will occur again sometime in the very near future.”
So, be on the lookout for an announcement regarding another very engaging BAC crime-filled evening with chicanery, collusion and scandal at each turn.
Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS
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