Left to right front row: Moriah Smith, Chris McConnell, James Thompson. Left to right back row: Everett Ezell, Niles Welch, John Finnegan, Megg Ward. Photo courtesy WhoDunnit.

Oh! Deadly Night!

By A.S. Waterman
Director Robert Thompson

Review by Keith Waits

Entire contents copyright © 2017 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

In the basement of a famous hotel, five people without names meet on Christmas Eve in front of a Bartender (Niles Welch) who seems to anticipate what they will want to drink and hints that he knows more than he is willing to share. That the characters do not reveal their names, even during the table walks between scenes (a staple of the mystery dinner format) is one of the clues that we are apparently in a “speakeasy”, the surreptitious nightclubs that originated during prohibition.

But other clues make it clear that we are in the Rathskeller of the famous Seelbach Hotel in Louisville, so what is really going on? It’s just the first layer of mystery explored in Oh! Deadly Night!, the current WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theater production.

What connects The Heiress (Moriah Smith), The Siren (Megg Ward), The Author (James Thompson), The Gangster (Chris McConnell), and The Musician (Everett Ezell) other than their affection for this watering hole? The arrival of a Masked Man carrying a Thompson Machine Gun seems to suggest something else. He is there to find the truth behind the disappearance of a young singer at the hotel exactly one year before. Her name was Anna Graham.

This is one Christmas entertainment that carries its holiday trappings lightly; the focus is on the mystery. No Santa Claus killers or riffs on Christmas Carol are found here, although there is a slightly supernatural air that hangs over the proceedings.

Robert Thompson, a fine actor making his directorial debut, leads his ensemble to good character work, never letting them overplay and keeping the accents (mostly) in line. Author Waterman populates her story with archetypes intended to echo the famous historical figures connected with the Seelbach, Al Capone and F. Scott Fitzgerald among them.

We are told that the characters are not to ever lie in conversation with the audience, except in reply to whether or not they are the killer, evade, yes, but not lie. I could not help but feel that a member of the cast did answer me dishonestly in one instance, at least based on the revelations of the second scene, but I also judge that it was not crucial to my figuring out the solution to the mystery, which, as always, I failed to do.

Without giving anything away, Oh! Deadly Night! ends on a touching grace note that helps elevate the material beyond the procedural.

Oh! Deadly Night!

Saturdays, November 18 – December 23, 2017
January 5 & 6, 2018

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

WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theater
At The Downtown Bristol
614 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202

Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of PUBLIC on WXOX-FM 97.1/ ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.