Laissez les bon temps roulet! Mardi Gras is in full swing down in the happening French Quarter of N’Orleans. But don’t you worry, child, if you can’t make the trip down to Louisiana Do or Die Mysteries are bringing a bit of the bayou up to you with their scandalously savory production of The Mystery Krewe for Shrove Tuesday! Featuring an original script written by the company’s Artistic and Managing Director Ceej Crowe, this tsunami of sinful sensations will stimulate the senses for a stupendous evening of theatre. Performed by a cast of six with interactive options peppered throughout the night, this is one delicious debacle that you won’t want to miss if you can help it.
Existing in the modern day N’Orleans where Voodoo Queens, Senatorial Wannabees, and sleazy Jersey porno-producers run rampant, The Mystery Krewe is every bit as delectable as the dinner being served up with the evening’s entertainment. Performed by a core of six actors, the tale unfolds right before diners’ eyes, including them immersively in the experience throughout the show. What sets playwright Ceej Crowe’s script apart from other murder mystery theatrical experiences is not only her ability to fully construct plot and characters, which she does with great aplomb, but her company’s deeply ingrained sense of camaraderie when it comes to playing off one another. Lively and fully engaged in the moment, these six thespians take to honest improv, which is heavily character driven, and roll with the punches of the evening, whether they’re scripted or audience-based.
Crowe and crew do a stupendous job of keeping theatergoers amused and engaged throughout the evening. Featuring an “interactive intermission” where dessert arrives with character-encounters, the performance is truly inclusive and wholeheartedly immersive for all in attendance. While the costumes (provided by Crowe and crew) do aide in the aesthetic of the evening’s overall tone— in the show a Mardi Gras extravaganza fit to please even the fanciest of festival queens— it’s the dedicated character work and development delivered by the performers that really make the evening a spectacular success.
When Huey Short, reigning King of the Mardi Gras Parade, decides to run for State Senate, it’s up to his wife Loretta to keep his campaign going. But can she do so without losing her mind over the newest trollop who has traipsed her way into town? Enter Miss Mona Lotte, the newest Queen of the Mardi Gras Parade, who is found keeping such undesirable company as the sleazy Nicky Tenor, nightclub proprietor of The Purple Slipper just over on Bourbon Street. And let’s not forget the vivacious Voodoo Queen, Madam Marie LaVogue, because her spell-binding magic figures into the mystery as well. Will you be able to solve the mystery of whodunit and why? Only an evening spent with The Mystery Krewe will tell.
The Usual Suspects
Like all Do or Die Mysteries shows, anyone can find themselves being suspected of murder! (At the performance I attended, I even found myself being accused— by the haughty Miss Loretta Short— and interrogated— by Police Chief John LaFoote and the audience— and boy was it a hoot!) Follow along carefully as the plot unfolds before your eyes because you never know who might have the motivation and the wherewithal to commit the crim!
Not particularly suited for being accused of murder…SPOILER ALERT… Mona might just be taking a nap with the alligators if you get the picture… Miss Ashlyn Thompson picks up the filthy role of starlet strumpet. With a crass accent that reeks of bubble-gum-popping Jersey and a vocabulary to reflect her homegrown origins, Thompson gets under the skin of everyone quite quickly, making it easy to understand how she ends up going toe-up before the evening is out. Flustered and frustrated are her two favorite motifs of the evening as she works her character’s angle, attempting to get what she wants any way that she can.
Pay close attention to this saucy French queen with the outrageous accent! Erin Tarpley takes on the affected character role with rigorous vigor, particularly when it comes to over-doing the accent for comedic intent. Accompanied by her pin-cushion doll Zeze, Tarpley is quite mesmerizing when it comes to slinging her peculiar customs around for all to see. Make sure you don’t confuse the voodoo that she do-do with Hoodoo because that will spell bad juju for you-you.
One might think it impossible for the Chief of Police and all round “good guy” John LaFoote to be guilty of murder but don’t let the big dopey face and those honest eyes fool you! John Kelso brings a remarkable stage presence to the detective-style character and is hands down one of the best on the team when it comes to handling and interacting with the audience. With spitfire improvisational skills, Kelso slings it right back at active audience members, particularly during the interrogation scene at the end of the performance and really holds his own against some of the more unpredictable moments in the show. Delivering a strikingly smooth Louisiana drawl and patois, LaFoote takes home all the beads for “best accent” in the show.
Charming and charismatic, two fine qualities that anyone might expect from a big-bucks southern gentleman about to ascend to the state senate. Stephen Kirkpatrick brings a hint of Colonel Sanders to his chivalrous mannerisms but don’t be fooled, he’s certainly no Mark Twain! His southern accent is as charming as his smile, both of which are a little on the sketchy side. Watch carefully as he attempts to wine and dine the audience to ensure his seat to the senate, among other unsavory involvements throughout the evening.
If you want a bonafide cad, you’ve come to the right man when it comes to Nicky Tenor. A real class-A heel, Jose de la Mar picks up the slick-talking Jersey boy accent with ease and really digs his heels into this caricature, playing him to perfection at just the heightened level of melodramatical theatrics. Diffusing his dialogue with unctuous oil, de la Mar is quite the lurid luxury that has lingered in Louisiana just a little too long for comfort. The banter between de la Mar’s character and Kelso’s character is hysterical as it escalates throughout the evening, but keep your eye on this slippery character as he might not be trustworthy!
Suave and debonair the way any lady of the south ought to be, Miss Wife-of-Huey has all the perfected poise of a proper lady of gentility. Ceej Crowe delivers a strong under-bite in this polished character, quipping sarcastic comments left, right, and center when it comes to handling her husband’s affairs. With the subtlest of accents in the performance, Crowe lends the character a faint whiff of dainty femininity before packing on the hellacious attitude of a furious woman scorned. Like all of the performers in the show, the one-on-one interactions are simply divine, but do be careful not to piss her off, or you (much like myself) might just end up being accused of murder in the calamitous comedy of mysterious mayhem!
Well we simply cannot give away whodunit, now can we? That wouldn’t be very hospitable, now would it? Like all Do or Die Mystery performances, the ending is only a bit of the immeasurable fun that is guaranteed to be had throughout the evening. It cannot be recommended enough to attend one of these fine and fantastical productions so that the experience of real murder mystery dinner theatre can be yours.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours with things that resemble intermission
The Mystery Krewe was a two-night Mardi Gras engagement played on February 8 & 9, 2016. Do or Die Mysteries are currently in residence at The Sunset Restaurant and Lounge— 625 Greenway Road SE in Glen Burnie, MD. Reservations are required and tickets are available for purchase by calling (443) 442- 3810 or by purchasing them online.
For more information on upcoming shows or to see the year’s calendar, please visit the website.