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Mayhem on the menu

Murder Café to present mystery dinner theatre in Wallkill, Poughkeepsie, Rosendale & Stone Ridge beginning in October

by @ Frances Marion Platt
September 29, 2010 02:57 PM | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Remember when interactive murder-mystery dinner theatre was a bold and innovative new entertainment concept? There are those who claim that its genesis took place right here in Ulster County, at Mohonk Mountain House, in the 1970s. Of course, then as now, the Mohonk version occupied an entire weekend of roleplaying and clue-finding, not just a meal. But in any case, it helped to launch a craze that has by now become such a part of America’s leisure-time landscape that we’re beginning to take it a bit for granted.

But what if the mystery storyline and characters were customized to raise more personal goosebumps for your family reunion, office holiday party, fundraising event or strategic planning retreat? Wouldn’t that be something special? Well, there are businesses out there that specialize in making that happen, and one of them – Frank and Kristen Marquette’s Murder Café Dinner Theatre – has just recently relocated to Rosendale in Ulster County. After more than a decade of creating original scripts and producing them successfully for businesses, schools, charities, families and individuals around the Las Vegas area, the Kingston natives are back on their home turf and ready to tailor one of their mysteries or other themed performances to suit your needs.

Drawing on decades of experience in theatre performance and production, the Marquettes share all aspects of the business responsibilities. Frank conceives, writes and directs the plays, with Kristen serving as editor, stage manager and costume designer; her original, historically accurate costumes have won critical acclaim. The Marquettes’ three daughters contribute to Murder Café’s productions as writers, performers and production assistants. The troupe employs local actors, all of whom have a wide range of experience in song, legitimate theatre and improvisational comedy.

The current Murder Café selection of scripts includes more than a dozen original works. Over the past two years, three original plays have been added, including a holiday variety show titled Jingle Jive: More than a 1940s Christmas Radio Show. This year the troupe was hired by the Poughkeepsie Library to write, produce and perform an original play based on Edgar Allan Poe’s tales of mystery. As part of the Library’s Big Read Program, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, Frank wrote Poe’s Last Mystery. The play includes readings by Poe himself and visits from various characters from his stories, who interact with Poe. You can catch a sample of Murder Café’s work by attending a public performance of the play on Saturday, October 23 at the Library or on Saturday, October 30 at the Bardavon 1869 Opera House, also in Poughkeepsie.

Even sooner, Lippincott Manor, a catering establishment in Wallkill that specializes in weddings, will host a Murder Café production titled A Wedding in Transylvania. Performances are scheduled for two Saturdays, October 16 and 30, with seating at 6:30 p.m. on both days. Attendees are asked to dress as if they were really part of a wedding party, and will be served a sit-down four-course meal. A cash bar will be stocked with assorted beer and wine, along with complimentary soft drinks. The dinner courses will be served between scenes of the show. Tickets cost $49.50 per person, including dinner and show, taxes and gratuities.

Here’s a synopsis of the plot: “You are being asked to witness the marriage of your distant cousin Frankie Alucard to Jane Dough, a mysterious girl from the mortal side of the tracks. You’ll join Count Alucard, his monstrously medicated wife Elsa and Frankie’s brother Jekyll (or is it Hyde?) as they celebrate this cursed event. Beware Renfield, the caterer to the undead, and a few mystery guests. All in all, it’s a match made in Hell.”

Lippincott Manor is located at 69 Lippincott Road in Wallkill. To reserve seats, phone (845) 895-2474 or visit www.ticketweb.com. A performance of A Wedding in Transylvania is also being planned for an as-yet-unspecified October date to benefit the Rosendale Community Center.

One of the Marquettes’ most popular productions is their dinner-theatre version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which had a nine-year run at an upscale Las Vegas restaurant. This year it will be performed twice daily at the Inn at Stone Ridge on December 5 and 12. A portion of the take will be donated to the Queens Galley food bank in Kingston.

Companies interested in hiring Murder Café to perform for their employees for a holiday party can arrange to have one of Frank’s scripts customized for the event. One favorite titled Dying to Win has been performed for groups ranging from Wells Fargo Bank and Kentucky Fried Chicken to TJX Companies and the Trane Corporation.

Murder Café can be reached at (845) 475-7973 or murdercafe.ny@gmail.com. For more information visit www.murdercafe.net. And keep an eye on that butler.

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