Left to right:  Makayla Staudenheimer, A. J. Green, Penny Brill,
Tom Staudenheimer and Morgan Younge in Entree to Murder.
Photo courtesy of Whodunnit Murder Mystery Theatre.

Entrée to Murder

Written by Ray Simmons

Directed by Jane Mattingly

Reviewed by Keith Waits.

This latest WhoDunnit entry does something that seems like such a good idea that I’m surprised they’ve never tried it before: set the murder in a restaurant. The mystery/dinner format already breaks down the barrier between audience and actor with the “table walks” in which the cast mingle with the crowd between scenes. But placing the action in a five-star eatery blurs the lines even further, as the setting cleverly acknowledges the dinner theater circumstance with spare set pieces that match the color and décor of the Hyatt Regency dining room that serves as WhoDunnit’s venue.

The struggle between illusion and reality continues as the Captain of Homicide questions audience members about their whereabouts on the night a particularly irritating yet loyal patron was poisoned. He was played by A. J. Green with an easy authority in this WhoDunnit veteran’s loosest and most relaxed performance. He was ably joined by Makayla Staudenheimer as a saucy chef and Morgan Younge as the maître de, both of whom show a good feeling for finding the laughs with skill and restraint. Penny Brill nicely underplays the restaurant’s bookkeeper while Tom Staudenheimer is colorful but overplays the owner of Chez James with too much gesture and overemphatic line readings that overwhelm in the intimate performance space.

The script by Ray Simmons follows the model pretty well, with sufficient background and character detail to give the real mystery aficionados enough to chew on between courses. (Almost half of the audience solved the mystery on opening night, including this reviewer, so the clues are fairly placed.) The direction by Jane Mattingly is generally clean, lean and efficient, and she draws performances that, for the most part, display nice consistency in energy and tone.

As for dinner, the stuffed baked sole was pretty tasty; but the Strawberry Lemon Mousse cake was definitely a scene-stealer. Lemon desserts are often overwhelming and overly tart, but the delicate cake with layers of raspberry and cream was delightful.

Editor’s Note: WhoDunnit roles are double-cast to accommodate their particular schedule, and some actors mentioned here may not be appearing when you attend.

Entrée to Murder

May 12-June 23, 2012

Seating at 6:30 / Show starts at 7:00

WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theatre

Performing at the Hyatt Downtown

320 West Jefferson Street

Louisville, KY 40202