First Dinner-Theatre Performance Serves a Perfect Blend of Comedy and Mystery

Junior Sissy Wynn directed this year’s fall play, Bill Hand’s “Murder on the Menu,” after drama teacher Samantha Sanford introduced the idea of the play. This show was the VAPA department’s first dinner theater play, which took place on Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. in the outdoor amphitheater.

During the comedic murder mystery performance, audience members were served Olive Garden along with an interactive experience. 

Sanford chose Wynn after the advanced theater students were proposed with the directing job and she immediately seized the opportunity.

“I was really scared because I never [directed] before,” Wynn said. “It was a learning process for everyone. And thankfully, everyone’s really forgiving. Boom, we’ve focused on lines and a lot of improvisation, making sure that we can go with the flow. I wanted to make sure that everyone was comfortable with discovering their own characters…It is an extensive investigation with a lot of drama between families and drama between status and it’s a comedy, so it’s really funny. The audience gets to interact with the characters because there’s no fourth wall.” 

This role was so much fun to play and different than any role I’ve played before, and I channeled that mischievous part of me to play Alexis, and it was so cool to play the unexpected villain on stage. My favorite part was definitely getting back to performing again and doing what I love on stage, after over a year, finally getting to perform in front of a live audience again.”

— Clarissa Roman

The play circles around the death of the head of a successful publishing business, Artemus Ward (junior Ama Loukili), who was stabbed at the town’s diner, The Manor. The newly-elected coroner Dr. Bufflinger (junior Kiara Knight) and bestselling author Major Major Major (junior Seif Abaskhairon) attempt to identify the murderer by investigating suspects.

After Major Major Major investigates the members close to Mr. Ward, he breaks the fourth wall by adopting the existence of the audience creating a unique connection to them. Major Major Major turns to an audience member and questions if it is him, and he becomes scared. 

Gasps escaped from the audience at the twist ending when the audience found out about the unforeseen murderer. 

“This role was so much fun to play and different than any role I’ve played before, and I channeled that mischievous part of me to play Alexis, and it was so cool to play the unexpected villain on stage,” junior Clarissa Roman said. “My favorite part was definitely getting back to performing again and doing what I love on stage, after over a year, finally getting to perform in front of a live audience again.”

The stellar performance consisted of a combination of great acting and laughter. The actors were able to channel the role perfectly and made a personal connection to the audience by interacting with them all night, allowing the overall mood of the night to be filled with excitement. Even though the staging was only set in one scene and it would have made the performance more memorable if there were multiple sets, the cleverly crafted mystery plot mixed with the audience’s unique interactions with the characters made for the perfect recipe for a great play that was a chefs’ kiss.

“It was fun and exciting to perform, not as scary or nerve-racking as some make it seem, but with that said I was surely still a bit nervous,” Abaskhairon said. “I just want to get the audience to laugh, enjoy it, just go on and have fun.”