BWW Review: FUNERAL FOR BROTHER JOHN on the Right Track in Kansas City
Board The Mystery Train and ride the rails of comedy to the Funeral for Brother John. Wendy Thompson wrote and directed the latest offering of the dinner theater. The Mystery Train runs through June 7, utilizing three different venues for the dinner and show. The Golden Ox at 1600 Genessee Street, Californos at 4124 Pennsylvania in the Westport Entertainment District, and Finnigan's Hall at 503 East 18 Avenue in North Kansas City.
Each venue offers different menus, which include an appetizer of chips and a dip, tossed salad, entrée, and desert. The Golden Ox offers an entrée choice of Charbroiled Bacon-wrapped Filet, Tequila Lime Chicken Breast, and Lemon Garlic Tilapia, or Pasta Primavera. Californos offers an entrée choice of Grilled Sirloin Steak, Parmesan Encrusted Chicken, Salmon Filet with a Sesame Soy Vinaigrette or Penne Pasta with Sautéed Vegetables. The entrée at Finnigan's Hall include Beef Medallions in a Cabernet Demi-Glace, Grilled Chicken Breast glazed with Honey Mustard Sauce or Pasta Primavera with Fresh Green Beans.
In an era dominated by the Pendergast machine, John Lazia controlled gambling, prostitution, organized crime, and the police force. "Brother John," as he was known to the people, gave jobs during the depression, feed, and sheltered the homeless. Rumors say he was responsible for the safe passage of Pretty Boy Floyd after the Union Station massacre. Machine guns blasted in front of his home on July 10, 1934, his death causing a shockwave across the city.
In route to Kansas City, for the Funeral for Brother John, are some nefarious passengers on their way to pay their respects, or are they? Nikki Susco-Taylor stars as Viola and Audrey (the sheriff). She gives a brilliant performance as the ever-nervous Viola, who is traveling with her friend Leona (played by a member of the audience). This is Susco-Taylors second appearance at The Mystery Train where she was the conductor in Drawn to Murder.
Kat Heiser plays Thelma the girlfriend of a notorious gangster who is leery of the nervous Viola. Thelma must keep her friend Dolores aka Dewey from spilling too much information to Viola or the sheriff. Heiser gives a wonderful performance, drawing large laughs with facial expressions and the gangster moll accent.
Dolores aka Dewey, played by Stephanie Charlton, likes to write poems to the families of the deceased. Unfortunately, for Dolores most of the poems would get her shot by the gangster's descendants. Charlton who has appeared with the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre, Barn Players, and The Mystery Train among others was fabulous as she develops her character and interacts with customers.
Eric Van Horn plays the conductor of the train and the play. He does a great job as he struggles to keep characters on track (pardon the pun) for their parts. The Mystery Train enlists members of the audience to play Leona (voted best customer actor), Maybelle, Joe, Buster, and Jimmy the Gent.
Funeral for Brother John continues through June 7. Purchase tickets at The Mystery Train website, The Central Ticket Office or call 816-235-6222 (service charges apply). Photos courtesy of The Mystery Train.