BWW Review: TIL DEATH DO US PART at The Murder Mystery Co. Of Dallas
While Dallas is celebrated for its thriving theatre scene, a good, old-fashioned dinner theatre can be hard to find in our great state. So, in my effort to track down the next best thing, I came across the Murder Mystery Co. of Dallas. While the troupe's creators have plenty of room to grow in order to perfect their intended experience, they're certainly on the right track.
Using my expert internet stalking skills (their website), I learned that the company launched in Michigan back in 2002 and has grown over the past 15 years to stretch across the US with events in twenty states. With their only Texas location finding a home at Dallas' eye-catching and industrial Edison's event venue, you couldn't really ask for a more ideal setup. Paired with a killer (get it?) diner buffet featuring slow-cooked roast beef, chicken fried chicken and a veggie-stuffed lasagna, the basics are perfectly in place.
But, your ticket price guarantees you a show, and the intended death scene is not the only element that leaves ticket buyers feeling somber. When all of the guests were asked early in the act to improvise a hum-along-style wedding march, the tone was quickly set for a low-budget, low-bar bummer. It's fair to note that Murder Mystery Co. is not advertised as an elegant affair (even though guests are encouraged to don their wedding best), but the casual environment does set the stage for a chill, no-frills mixer.
In TIL DEATH DO US PART (one of the various themed evenings MMC presents) only five actors are employed, covering the roles of bride, bridesmaid, DJ, grandmother-in-law, plus one actor playing both the best man and detective. The remaining action is reliant upon the improvisational skills of 10 or so random strangers handpicked from the audience (who play the groom, mother-of-the-bride, flower girl and so on). For a few moments, the enthusiasm of the audience volunteers is endearing, but the overall lack of structure grows tiresome, and eventually frustrating. In addition, all audience members are expected to participate by mingling post-dinner to talk to the actors and volunteer-actors to gain clues (provided to each table in a detailed binder) and solve the murder. On the night I attended, I could tell that not all guests were game to hop to their feet, but those who did could not have been more gung-ho to unravel the mysterious plot.
That being said, it would be unfair to offer criticism without some unsolicited suggestions for development. The performance would have immensely improved if a script writer was invited on board to insert subtly structured, witty banter and one-liners to offer the actors guaranteed laughs, even if the intent is to remain an improv-based production. I could also imagine a couple of optional wedding dances getting the crowd up and excited, since weddings are always a fine showcase of your aunt's best alcohol-inspired moves. And, speaking of drinks, why not throw down a themed drink menu (Bloody Murder Mary or Murder Mystery Margarita, anyone?) to up the theming and encourage everyone to shell out a few extra bucks at the bar? My list could go on and on.
Despite its flaws, Murder Mystery Company's TIL DEATH DO US PART provided an amusing evening in a conversation-inspiring environment, served with a pretty solid meal. At $60-$80 a pop, a bit more structure could surely send the crowd off with a stronger positive impression, building futures guests lists through word-of-mouth and repeat visitors.
Tickets and more information about the Dallas branch of Murder Mystery Co. can be found at www.murdermysterydinnerdallas.com.