Evening Out Provides Tasty Fare, and a Focus on Murder


(Monday, July 23, 2007 1:28 PM EDT)

If you're in the mood for an unconventional theater experience and enjoy flexing your mystery-solving muscles, you might want to check out Mystery Dinner Playhouse at the Double Tree Hotel in Crystal City.

Now in its 13th year, Mystery Dinner Playhouse offers a family-friendly mystery performance, coupled with a four-course dinner that is served between the five 10- to 15-minute scenes.

The actors perform in the banquet-style setting, often interacting with the audience and doubling as severs for the evening.

Audience members are given a clue sheet to help narrow down suspects, and they can use play money on their table to bribe the actors into giving them more clues.

The audience members write who they think is guilty on a solution sheet, and the answer is revealed in the final scene.

Mystery Dinner Playhouse's current production, “Here's Killing You, Kid” is a 1940s film noir murder mystery spoof. With gumshoes, dames and martinis galore, the script, by James Daab, unabashedly has almost every cliche of the genre imaginable.

The mystery begins at Bigelow's Bar and Grill with the sultry Mrs. Forsythe (Reed Hood) approaching down-on-his-luck P.I. Jack Barlow (Ric Anderson), asking him to help her find her husband, Mr. Forsythe, who had recently found the Majorcan Monkey (a statue said to bring incredible wealth to its owner).

When Mr. Forsythe is murdered, things turn upside down at Bigelow's and all the characters become suspects.

While Anderson held his own as a slightly pathetic tough-talking private investigator and Hood entertained viewers by attaching “if you know what I mean” to almost all her lines, some of the more minor characters really resonated with the audience.

Walker Johnson who plays Charlie, a tough but lovable bartender (complete with a thick Brooklyn accent), kept the audience giggling with his constant jibes at Barlow's ineptitude as a detective, and Tracey McPartland who performed as Ginger, a waitress hoping to make a big break as a singer, had everyone in stitches with a “unique” vocal solo.

Dinner at the production was not four stars, but was quite flavorful and filling.

The meal started with a beer and cheese soup and garden salad. The audience had a choice of chicken, prime rib, salmon or vegetarian fare for an entree and carrot cake was served for dessert.

There are many theater options for Northern Virginians to enjoy, and even though Mystery Dinner Playhouse does not boast Helen Hayes winners, it is clear the actors are having fun, and the show they put on is worth experiencing.

“Here's Killing You, Kid” will show every Friday and Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. through Oct. 20. Tickets are $42.95 for adults, $38.95 for seniors and military and $32.95 for children under 12. For reservations, call (888) 471-4802.

For more information, visit the Web site at www.mysterydinner.com.

Andrew Stangland plays a reporter in the spoof “Here’s Killing You, Kid!” playing at the DoubleTree Crystal City.
(Photo by Chalmers Hood)

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