A Case of Misplaced Expectations

Dear Reader,

Murder-mystery dinners look a whole lot classier on TV. Not too long ago, I had the great dis-/pleasure of experiencing one of these classic events in person. To understand the mixed feelings that I’m hinting at, allow me to premise with the following.

When I hear the term “dinner show,” images of people performing on-stage spring to my mind while the audience is seated at large round tables decked with white cloths. In this vision, the dining room is dimmed, and the viewers/ diners are captured by the action that happens on stage. I have had two past experiences that have led me to this conclusion. The first was many, many years ago at Disney World, which featured a dinner with musical performers moving about the dining room as well as on stage (it may have been the “Hoop-Dee-Doo-Musical Revue” but I’m not 100% positive). The second was within the past decade when I saw a performance of the whodunit comedy “Shear Madness.”

I guess in my head, I combined these two events to gauge my expectations for the “Dinner Detective” show that I was attending… this wasn’t a smart assumption as it turns out!

Unlike the staged events that I am used to, the Dinner Detective was hosted in a hotel conference room. There were 100 guests in attendance (10 tables with 10 guests each) and we were arranged around the perimeter of the room into a large oval encircling the action that would take place in the center. Foreshadowing what was to come, masking tape was configured into the shape of a slain adult human on the carpeted floor to mimic the commonly depicted chalk outlines of murder victims.

Upon entering the room, I was immediately dismayed to see that this event was unlikely to be the sit-back-watch-and-eat affair that I had conjured in my mind. We took our seats at table #10 and were seated with two couples, both of the friendly, talkative sort. Although everyone was nice, as an introvert (and dis-liker of surprises) I was displeased.

The salad course was served before any of the action started, then, our ebullient host loudly entered the conference room. He explained how the evening was going to work: we were going to participate, investigate our fellow dining companions, review clues, and guess at the murderer’s identity (and eat obviously). When asked questions, we were encouraged to give dishonest responses and we were to address everyone by the “code names” of their choosing (like “Agent Smith,” “Big D*** Daddy,” “Taylor Swift,” etc.). Our first task was to move around the room and get to know each other by asking a set of general questions (again, lies encouraged!).

Yeah… I didn’t do this. I just sat there and talked to one of my table mates (a grandmother of 10!). After we were seated again, the action was carried out by two bumbling detectives (great improv actors!). Audience members participated in their interrogations and actors sitting at the tables among us took part in the show as well (however, this was not immediately apparent to us).

Overall, the whole bit was kind of funny (but also confusing, to be honest) and I appreciated the hard work of all the actors involved! Regardless, this sort of event just wasn’t really my thing. It felt distinctly game like — being encouraged to lie, reviewing “clues” through QR code links, “interrogating” people, and piecing together motives. However, if you enjoy the opportunity to solve a fake murder mystery, then maybe you would enjoy the show! Also, the food and drinks were surprisingly very good!

At least I tried it once, I suppose.



P.S. There are Dinner Detective shows offered across the country, and you can even bring these shows to your own events (corporate outings and the like).

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