When I was growing up, my favorite boardgame was CLUE – I always had to be Miss Scarlet, I always wanted to be the one who did it, and I always wanted it to be in the Lounge with the Candlestick. I’ve been collecting various editions and spin-offs of that game since that time, and my home décor includes more than a few candlesticks (Mr. Boddys of the world, beware!). I remember the first time my mom rented a VHS copy of the Clue movie from Gartner’s Jack & Jill in Kenmare. I was entranced. I loved Leslie Warren as the sultry Miss Scarlet, I loved that every weapon got used through the course of the movie, and I especially loved the alternate endings that played one after another at the end of the film (in the theatrical release, a theatre would only receive one of the endings, leading to a different viewing experience depending on where one went to see the film). I love a good mystery, even if I’m usually terrible at solving them!
You Have The Right To Remain Dead, the season opener at the Firehall Theatre, is an audience participation mystery in the vein of Clue where the audience gets to take part in the action: offering theories, questioning the suspects, and examining evidence – without touching of course! Fingerprints…
The show opens with a brief scene narrated by Harnell Chesterton (David Watnemoe) to get the audience into a sleuthing mood. As he explains the role the audience will play in solving the mystery, he is interrupted by Blanche LaToure (Nikki Quam), the director of the evening’s production. Well, not the “real” production. It turns out that this is a show within a show, a murder mystery set in the deep South, where all of “Fat Daddy’s” friends and relations are looking to do him some bodily harm before he has the chance to make out a new will. Blanche is just there to get Harnell back on track so that the show can start. And start it does, with a parade of drawling, shady characters all looking to cause a little mayhem. But when the wrong person ends up dead, the show turns into an investigation of whodunit and why.
I’ve already mentioned Harnell and Blanche. Let’s take a look at the rest of the cast and crew, a veritable rogue’s gallery of shady characters:
Arnold Turnbull (Kevin Kemarly) plays the cantankerous Fat Daddy, and he is just about as unpopular as his stage persona. He’s the former husband of Doris (Mare Thompson) and inexplicably British, and he may still carry a torch for his spiteful ex. Doris would like nothing better than to grab that torch, add in a pitchfork, and lead an angry mob to get rid of Arnold for good.
Leigh Dorsett (Kelsey Misialek) and Steve Randall (Patrick Pearson) play Fat Daddy’s scheming children, and the audience has to wonder if they are just as dangerous in real life as they are in the show. The cast within the cast is rounded out by Lois Jacobson (Megan Perry), the young ingénue who is clearly not as sweet and innocent as she’d like you to think, and Ajax Conroy (Dustin Umland), the beefcake with a sketchy past (“Parking tickets!”), who seems to have more than a passing acquaintance with law enforcement.
Another suspect is the energetic and often self-incriminating Trudy (Brooke Pesch) who runs the lights and sound in the old theatre; if she doesn’t have a motive for the murder, she’ll do her best to find one! Luckily, Officer Bainbridge (Mark Diers) is on the scene to help solve the crime. But does his relationship with the deceased make him a crusader for justice, or just another suspect?
What’s fun about this show is that the “4th Wall” is all but forgotten: the show opens with Harnell directly addressing the audience, and after a brief slip into the “show-within-a-show,” the audience is actively part of the investigation. They can offer suggestions for who they think might have done the deed. They can look at evidence and examine the stage for clues; there is even a brief visual scavenger hunt before the show opens where audience members can enter for a chance to win a ticket to a future show! The audience may even come under suspicion – Officer Bainbridge is leaving absolutely no stone unturned!
Fans of light-hearted murder mysteries will love the premise of this show and trying to puzzle out the who the murderer is. Can you solve the mystery without become Bainbridge’s prime suspect?
You Have The Right To Remain Dead is directed by C. J. Leigh and runs tonight as well as October 3-5 at the Firehall Theatre. Tickets are $15, $12 for students/seniors/military, and are available at the door or at the Chester Fritz box office. Show time is 7:30, but you may want to arrive a bit early to take part in the scavenger hunt.
Tags: Brooke Pesch, C. J. Leigh, Candlestick, CJ Leigh, Clue, Clue The Movie, community theater, community theatre, David Watnemoe, Dustin Umland, Fire Hall Theater, Fire Hall Theatre, Firehall Theater, Firehall Theatre, Greater Grand Forks Community Theater, Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre, Interactive Murder Mystery, Janessa, Janessa J, Janessa J Champagne, Janessa Jaye, Janessa Jaye Champagne, Kelsey Misialek, Kevin Kemarly, Lounge, Mare Thompson, Mark Diers, Megan Perry, Miss Jaye, Miss Scarlet, Nicole Quam, Nikki Quam, Patrick Frost Pearson, Patrick Pearson, World of Champagne, You Have The Right To Remain Dead