ELIZABETHTOWN —A nice, quiet buffet dinner at a local winery with friends or family … as you’re scooping up seconds on your favorite prime rib, the sound of porcelain hitting the wood planks underneath your feet. The dish shatters as a body simultaneously slumps to the floor — unresponsive but bleeding — detectives enter and begin questioning everyone, including you, your innocent dinner now a diabolical murder investigation.
In August, that will be the scenario for guests at Cape Fear Vineyard & Winery, when The Cork Room becomes the venue for Murder Mystery Productions. Touting its shows as “killer” performances and classic whodunnits, the Myrtle Beach-based company’s repertoire includes “Death by Design,” “Past Imperfection,” “Killer Beauty,” “Beachfront Property…To Die For!” and “Tony and Tina-Mae’s Big Phat Redneck Wedding: A Killer Affair.” Even the titles, however, may not be what they seem.
“We don’t want to put too much information out there,” said Murder Mystery Production owner Jerry Winsett.
In fact, the company will only reveal what guests need to know — the format. All ticket holders will arrive for the dinner theater at the same time, and, at some point during the meal, a crime will be committed. Clues, as well as red herrings, will be planted throughout the evening, so guests have to stay on their toes, because it’s their responsibility to solve the crime. Actors are interspersed with the audience, so no one knows whom to trust.
“You have to figure out who the actors are, what characters did what, and to whom, and why they did it. Even once one of characters is out, it’s not easy to put all the pieces together,” the owner and Chief Detective explained.
Winsett said usually four or five people, whom they call “supersleuths,” figure things out.
“Some people like to really put their heads to it and figure out the clues and solve the mystery,” Winsett explained, “but even if you just want to come and have dinner, it’s a good time, and there’s humor in it.”
Not only is the performance humorous and mysterious, it’s also tailor made. Having an ensemble with 10-15 years of experience in murder mystery theater means Winsett and his troupe can modify the script to fit the site and the audience. He said they even once did a mystery on a bus tour, stopping at rest stops to dispose of “dead bodies.”
“We’ve been doing this long enough that we can figure out what we should and shouldn’t do based on the audience,” he said. “We’re not going to do anything inappropriate if there are a lot of families there, and even the deaths are done in a comical way, so nobody freaks out.”
The Carolinas’ longest-running professional interactive murder mystery troupe, Murder Mystery Productions been performing for the better part of three decades, including 11 years at the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach. The company is comprised of professional actors and performs corporate and private shows from Chicago and Washington, D.C., to Gulfport, Miss.
Though the company won’t reveal bios on all their actors for the sake of mystery, it does say its “talented acting troupe includes a hodge-podge of assorted gangsters, innocents, psychos, hit men, bimbos, socialites, (and) snitches …” who have appeared in countless stage and screen productions including Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, General Hospital, Days of Our Lives, Dawson’s Creek, Matlock, Homeland, and Babylon 5.
The show will take place at Cape Fear Winery on Saturday, Aug. 5, from 7 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $50 and include a dinner buffet and the show. Tickets may be obtained by calling The Cork Room restaurant at 910-247-6587.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.