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“Marriage Can Be Murder”

"Mike is it."

Gulp.

What can I say? If you go to an interactive murder mystery dinner theater by yourself and take more notes than most people, you look guilty.

So I couldn’t blame Barbie, the nurse from Bakersfield, Calif., for pegging me as a suspect. No more than I could blame Steve, the Michigan truck driver, or Pam, his bride of five days, who sat next to me. They were checking out "Marriage Can Be Murder" in the Four Queens’ Canyon Club because it fit their schedule better than their first choice, dirty hypnotist Anthony Cools.

Ha, ha. I might look like a killer, but I didn’t have to get up and do the chicken dance like they did. Oh well, Cools would have made them do worse.

Locals may know more about "Marriage" than many a show to test its mettle in the tourist market. The dinner show ran for seven years at the Egg & I restaurant before moving into the virtually undiscovered Canyon Club in January.

Compared to the elaborately surreal "Tony ‘N Tina’s Wedding," this is a lean, mean operation. It’s basically the work of one couple, creator Eric Post and his wife, Jayne, along with a few easily trained accomplices in bit parts.

Jayne greets you at the door in a blond wig, guides the show as the sometimes ditzy host (she wavers between dumb and smart, which is either inconsistent or part of the joke) and does an impression of Katharine Hepburn as Elvis.

Eric is the cop in short shorts who responds to the first uproar and gradually pieces the clues together.

Mostly, the two do a lot of comic banter and cornball jokes that benefit from their chemistry and from having done this a long time.

The premise of "Tony ‘N Tina" is that you interact with the characters, but they continue their wedding shenanigans with or without you. This one is more structured. Three "acts," with a murder in each, correspond to the three-course dinner. Each crime is followed by long stretches of the Posts summoning various audience members to their feet for comic questioning.

To describe the "plot" in detail would take away the element of surprise and require the Posts to rewrite the show (which they do anyway, every few months). Suffice it to say that if you’re having trouble fingering the audience plant you are a) Really gullible, b) Not paying attention, or c) Lacking cell phone Internet to check out funny-sounding Web sites.

Modest ticket prices forgive the dinner that borders on the monastic: a skewer of beef, chicken or shrimp, with rice and broccoli. Dessert is lemon poundcake.

Not to undermine my credibility any further after being suspected of murder, but take the letter grade for this one with a bigger grain of salt than normal: "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.

One thing I will say with certainty: The show is too long. A trip to the Egg & I was meant to be an evening in itself; a show in the tourist corridor is one part of the night. When "Marriage" ended after two hours and 20 minutes, Nurse Barbie’s party headed to the first slot machines outside the club doors like smokers after a long plane flight.

There’s nothing here that couldn’t be tightened up by 20 minutes. One poor heating and air-conditioning guy was repeatedly called up and asked his name and profession, as though he magically would become funny if the Posts kept asking.

But maybe I’m just sour grapes. When the prize for most suspicious audience member was handed out at the end, I lost to an Avon lady and her husband of 60 years, and to a guy who looked like the musician Uncle Kracker.

Maybe next time.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or (702) 383-0288.

 

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