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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


With changes and technical hiccups, Murder Mystery kills

Without a stage, the performers had to improvise the set. (Richard Lynch)
Without a stage, the performers had to improvise the set. (Richard Lynch)

Mystery and murder filled the air in SAC Ballroom B as Stony Brook University’s Weekend Life Council and Pocket Theater joined forces to bring this year’s Murder Mystery Dinner, called You Have the Right to Remain Dead, to campus.

On Saturday, April 13, Stony Brook students were briefly taken to the Deep South, where a father’s big inheritance encourages his family to plot against him. But the audience was in for a twist when the show’s narrator was mysteriously murdered.

It was a show within a show directed by Will Addison, a sophomore anthropology major. Members of Pocket Theatre and Weekend Life Council played actors who then played characters in the Deep South, where the murder was to occur.

However, once the narrator of the production, Harnell Chesterton, played by Nelson Pascuzzi, a Stony Brook student and Pocket Theatre member, was murdered, members of the play reverted from their Deep South characters to their actors.

But that was not the only surprise in this year’s production. For the first time, students, who once could play a character in the murder mystery, were now strictly audience members playing detectives.

“When you do a murder mystery like it’s been done in the past… if everyone is interested and involved it goes really well, but if people aren’t, it’s really self-made,” Addison, first time director and Weekend Life Council member, said. “With a theater production, it’s going to happen, there is going to be a story. The audience can participate but doesn’t have to create a character.”

In previous years, students were able to do just that. They were the characters and they solved the murder as the night progressed. But according to Addison, the event’s attendance was usually small.

He claims this arrangement attracted more people. The audience was provided with entertainment and food from O Sole Mio.

But attracting a larger audience came with some hiccups. “I guess I didn’t really know what I was getting into,” Addison said.

The production was put together in a month and a half, a shorter period of time than usual. Addison as well as Sounds person Paige Brook, student and member of Pocket Theater, stepped in to play Earl/Steve Randall and Blanche LaToure, respectively.

There were technical difficulties with lighting. The lights in Ballroom B were either on or off. This made scenes, which called for a spotlight or the actors running throughout the room during “blackouts” difficult.

Students like Janaea Eads, a freshman English major, expected there to be a stage.

However, since the theater rooms in Staller Center do not permit food, the production was held in the SAC. Without a stage or curtains set up, the cast was forced to leave the room during various scenes.

Some cues were missed either because lights did not go off at the correct times or because extra noise from the hallway made it difficult for the actors to hear.

Regardless, the show must go on, and so it did.

Though several audience members including Dylan Van-Den Berg, a senior theatre arts major, admitted that the ability to play a character would be “one step further,” many students enjoyed the event.

“Having the director walk around in character while we’re eating and engaging in discussion with people is also making the plot more engaging,” Van-Den Berg said.

Like Addison, Van-Den Berg agreed there are some benefits to a Weekend Life and Pocket Theater run show.

“I think that this is very appealing to people…it attracts a different kind of audience,” he said.

Despite the ups and downs of the production, Addison, like many, thought the play was successful. The event was a learning experience for everyone involved, including members of the audience, who learned that the killer was the last person  expected.

Student and Pocket Theatre member Victoria DiCarlo’s actor, Leigh Dorsett, was the murderer. Dorsett played the Deep South-based character Hyacinth in this show within the show. She began the play in the Deep South holding a gun and ended it with one exiting the stage.

The cast and crew, however, learned something different.

“After having put it on now, I know for the future what things I can delegate to other people on Weekend Life Council that I don’t need to worry about,” Addison said.

He continued to say that planning the event at least two months in advance  will be beneficial.

“The hardest thing is remembering that no matter how many productions you put on, the audience doesn’t have a script,” Addison said.

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