Murder’s on menu for dinner theater
Special to The Commercial Appeal
Would you like murder most foul with your pasta?
Phyllis Appleby will be glad to serve it up in the form of the humorous Death Du Jour Mystery Dinner Theater she’s been presenting for several years.
The next one on the menu is “Magnum Farce,” playing Thursday at Spaghetti Warehouse. On that fateful evening, the demise of an unfortunate victim will be investigated by Appleby (as detective Godiva Bee) and her offbeat forensics-expert partner Dr. Archibald Bee, played by Edward Cookenham.
The result is something like a game of Clue directed by Boris and Natasha.
“Mystery lovers are very intense,” Appleby says, “so it has to be a good crime and solvable and make sense. I do a forensic theme, so I have an actual crime scene,” she says, upping the fun quotient by having the audience play for clues.
Appleby, who is president of the Malice in Memphis Chapter of Sisters in Crime Mystery Writers, got the notion going when a restaurant owner asked if she had any ideas to lure customers. They liked the idea of a mystery dinner theater, so she got to work.
“The first one was rough, but everyone had fun and laughed hard,” she says. “They wanted to sign up for the next one and it grew from there.”
She has done it at several places around town in public performances and for corporate events. Spaghetti Warehouse has hosted it for some seven years.
The two main characters “are more like a standup comedy routine,” Appleby says. Her Godiva Bee has a TV show like “Unsolved Mystery,” and brother Archibald assists because “no one else will hire him because he got a degree from a Rastafarian university and he’s a lunatic.”
Although they don’t use other actors, some of the audience can get in on the action as characters, and the rest play along as detectives.
Appleby says the dinner and drama run about three hours, but the action goes on between courses, so there’s plenty of opportunity to savor as well as solve.
“Writing a mystery is my first love, and I’ve done that for years,” Appleby says. “I’ve got a good feel for people and want everyone to enjoy the evening — it’s like going out with friends and playing a fun game.”
Cookenham, her partner in crime solving, is a friend who she says has great comic timing. “He and his wife, Leanne, have a clown ministry. They even got married in clown suits,” Appleby says.