If your dinners out have gotten dull of late, some murder mayhem, femmes fatales, and sudden plot twists could liven things up.
The Murder Mystery Company offers dinner and a show for $60 at the Sons of Italy in Quincy, where guests dine buffet-style and then get down to the important question of whodunit. Fans of the board game or film “Clue” need apply.
Come for the interactive improv, not so much the food. Haute cuisine wasn’t expected, and the mushy vegetables and flavorless pasta were about what we anticipated. My group dubbed the wine “Chateau Bland,” though the mixed drinks, on the other hand, erred on the side of lethal, perhaps fitting to the event’s theme.
We were greeted at the door by one of the murder suspects, butler Jarvis Deedit, who checked us in. Once upstairs, guests donned feather boas and fedoras and grabbed handcuffs and pistols to strike a pose for mug shots, with the option to purchase photos later ($20 for two).
On to the spacious dining room, graced with chandeliers and exposed beams. The show seats up to 200 people at tables of 10. There’s play money and a set of rules at each table, explaining that suspects will take bribes and must answer questions truthfully, whatever they are asked.
The show, “Best Laid Plans,” is set in the 1930s, and era-appropriate costumes for the audience are encouraged. A few women wore full-length gowns accentuated with long strings of beads, while most guests wore business-casual or semiformal attire, and a few came in jeans and sneakers.
When completing your reservation online, you choose a main course dish, but dinner is served buffet-style, so you can partake of everything.
There’s a standard salad of lettuce and tomatoes, dinner rolls, and a blend of steamed cauliflower, carrots, and broccoli. Caesar chicken is serviceable, while the pork roast with gravy was moist and flavorful. The rice pilaf was dull, the pasta with marinara plain. Roasted potatoes were as good as spuds sitting in a chafing dish can be.
The online menu promises a choice of chocolate cake, carrot cake, pudding, or a brownie with ice cream for dessert, but there were only platters of brownies and chocolate chip cookies. The brownies were all right and probably of the boxed-mix variety, but the cookies tasted generic and factory-produced.
Dinner is served all at once before the show begins, and is included with the price of admission. Drinks, aside from coffee and tea, cost extra.
As servers clear plates, suspects begin to make the rounds and introduce themselves to tables. Some audience members play suspects, like Ol’ Granny Gert. She clearly relished her role and didn’t miss a beat, delivering zingers like an improv veteran. Her daughter was starlet Busty Leroux, whose “reputations precede you,” as our host told her.
Sir Warren Peace, played by director Matt Goldstein, is throwing a gala at his Hollywood Hills mansion when things go awry. With each table working as a team, guests play detective, walking around the room questioning suspects to hear alibis and determine possible motives.
The questioning sessions are broken up by a musical number and enough plot twists and unearthed secrets to keep you guessing until the end. Each table ultimately names a suspect and writes up a supposed motive, and the actors pick one table as a winner.
My table, Lucky 13, was singled out! There were high fives all around, and claps on the back for our team leader, Bruce. On the count of three, we were told to tell the rest of the room who the killer is. . .
And then we were told: “Wrong!”
We actually received the distinction of “Dead Last Place” — I have a certificate to prove it — for getting the wrong killer and because one guest at our table penned in “. . . or aliens.” We couldn’t stop chuckling about it for the remainder of the evening, because they really had us.
The table that wrote the best theory, in addition to correctly identifying the killer, also received a certificate, and another was awarded to a Bonnie and Clyde-themed couple for best costumes.
Goldstein said he feels out audience members when choosing guests to play suspects, and tries to select people celebrating special occasions like a birthday.
“We can sort of gauge if they’re there to have a good time,” he said. “We’re looking for people who will say ‘yes’ to whatever we toss at them.”
Goldstein trained the troupe of local actors, who have been performing since April.
“I was in Chicago for the last three years doing shows for the company, and they decided to expand into the New England area and tapped me for the position,” he said.
The troupe will perform “Best Laid Plans” for about six months before moving on to another theme, Goldstein said.
Scott Cramton started the company in Grand Rapids, Mich., and it now performs in such cities as New York, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Kansas City, and Nashville, Goldstein said.
But, whodunit, you ask? Book a reservation — it could be you.Shirley Goh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @GohShirl.