How much does society change in three years?
When I first reviewed “Marriage Can Be Murder” at a different location in April 2008, I had this to say in the review:
“ ’Interactive’ means the experience will vary. If you’re new to this sort of thing and go in a big, boozy group, you’re likely to get more out of it.”
That was by way of explaining that “Marriage” is a dinner-theater comedy where a few actors are planted to mingle with the ticket-buyers, who usually don’t realize these folks are part of the show until they get shot, stabbed or poisoned.
But now, “interactive” means you also can play along on your phone, getting clues via Facebook. The show half-jokingly bills itself as “four-dimensional,” because it’s one of the few that doesn’t ask you to turn your phone off when it begins.
“Marriage” is still better as a sociable group experience; flying solo really isn’t a great idea for anybody who isn’t an entertainment reporter doing this sort of thing as a weekly routine. But I did, and if you do, I can attest: It is absolutely possible to sit there with your phone and solve the mystery — perhaps even more quickly without distractions — without ever leaving your table to work the room.
That’s interactivity in 2011 for you.
But when it comes to old-fashioned entertainment, “Marriage” has tightened into a solidly funny offering over the years. “A lot of people wanted to see the fancy shows on the Strip, but they come here because we’re cheaper and we have food,” co-star Jayne Post tells the audience at one point, in a telling quip.
She and husband Eric Post have been at this so long — after starting far from the tourist zone in a local restaurant — that they’ve packed a maximum number of jokes into each minute of a well-paced two hours.
This low-tech effort in a cozy showroom at Fitzgeralds is essentially a two-person show between Eric the Cop and Jayne shifting in and out of a ditzy character named D.D. Their rapid-fire banter doesn’t spare the groaners.
He: “Where did this guy come from?”
She: “Probably his mother.”
He: “I didn’t catch your name.”
She: “I didn’t throw it at you.”
The mystery plots change every few months. The current one (did we mention it has to do with Facebook?) yields to a holiday theme Nov. 18. But the structure never changes.
Trouble breaks out about the time you finish your salad, and Eric, as a cop in short-shorts that inspire many one-liners of the “SpongeBob Cop-pants” school, turns up to dispatch the perpetrator.
From then on, he’s grilling audience members (and the embedded actors) between two more comedic deaths, carefully paced to a serviceable, casino coffee shop-quality dinner of chicken, beef or fish.
It’s far more structured and presentational than “Tony ‘N’ Tina’s Wedding,” the other Las Vegas show that feeds you while you improvise with the cast. That show gets better as you stray from your chair. But this one comes to you, making sure you get all the information.
The Facebook component isn’t essential, but it adds extra jokes and clues (“Alcohol can kill”). Some of them might be red herrings, however. What did those stinkers mean by posting, “Look for a guy with the initials MW”?
In the end, I might have pegged the ultimate perpetrator of the mystery — one with such silly motives and explanations it’s not really worth the effort — had said perpetrator not thrown me off by being so darn nice, trying to help me pull up the Facebook page on my new phone.
Foiled, by untrustworthy human emotions tied to our reigning electronic obsession. How ironically 2011.
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.Review
“Marriage Can Be Murder”
6:30 p.m. daily
Fitzgeralds, 301 Fremont St.
$60.45-$76.95, $49.95 for Nevada residents with ID (388-2111)