Saturday, January 03, 2009
Murder Mystery Dinner Theater New Years Eve Debacle
From left to right: Maisa, Keith, Liz, Chris, Me, Andrew. This is our "before" photo. Unfortunately, I never got around to the "after" shot. But that's par for the course on New Years Eve.
That's us. Mostly unsuspecting victims of the Murder Mystery Dinner Theater at the Four Points Sheraton. I say "mostly unsuspecting" because I had a hunch the thing might turn out to be a bust. I invited friends who I knew would make the most of it no matter what, and who wouldn't hold the fiasco against me after they dropped $94.58 on the evening--not including alcohol.
So where did my hunch come from? First clue: I read about the event in Tucson Weekly, but found no details about it on their website, www.mysterymansion.com. The only details I could find online were on Craig's and Metromix.
When I called Ross Horwitz to get some more info, he wasn't entirely forthcoming and was a little too eager to get me to buy. I knew something was up when I realized that the $75 ticket came up to a whole $94.58 with tax and service fee. Something I did not find out from Ross, but rather from Liz after she had purchased. Why hadn't he told me the total when I paid over the phone? (He told me there was a fee, but not what it came to.) What else wasn't he telling me?
What he wasn't telling me was "Welcome to the chintziest New Years Eve Murder Mystery Theater Dinner you could ever envision." At least it makes for a great story. Which is why I've invited every member of our party to post their rendition of the night's events on this blog. But first, let me run you through some photos.
I took this one of Andrew while we were standing in line. You can see there was a decent crowd. I was relieved about this, being that I half expected to get to the Sheraton to find a gutted out shell, wind blowing through it and a wall spray painted with the phrase: "We got you, suckers!"
As you can see, the tables were nicely set with some nye party favors and such. The room was decorated with murder mystery themed posters. So far so good.
Keith and Maisa enjoy the show with some weak drinks.
The kindly tranny.
Andrew drags me on stage, I dress him like a baby and he wins the dance off.
The dance contest turns out to be the chicken dance contest. I still have the rubber chicken key chains to show for it.
After the magic show, Andrew sympathizes with the bunny and gives it some of his champagne. Maisa celebrates this.
The Hungarian/Oklahoman fortune teller vocalist singing "Age of Aquarius" acapella.
Andrew is completely crazed by the end of it.
Liz and Chris feign amazement at the theater troupe's accomplishments.
*****the sheraton 4 points nye magic murder mystery dinner theater gala ****
the evening opened with us seated at a table directly under the pa system which blasted a set of 6 songs containing the word magic in the lyric over and over and over.
we donned our festive hats, put on our murder mystery character name tags, switched on the blinking cop car/ice cube lights provided by the local dui task force and sipped a delightful ice tea.
the "show" then opened. if one were to take some of the more average talent from a high school play, provide them with no plot and have the characters defined by a wacky voice, it might approximate the next 2 hours. while "enjoying' the first act we were served our first course, a slightly wilted handful of iceberg lettuce awash with ranch dressing. the first act concluded with one of the actors dropping a knife on the floor, this was somehow supposed to be her murder; the only thing dying was the audience’s expectations.
next course: fishwhicken served with a rice pilaf coated in a mix of mustard and ketchup, and a lone stalk of steamed broccoli, in the words of rachel ray, "yummo!" chris asserted that it HAD to be chicken because fish doesn't get as tough when its over cooked. the next act began, new wacky voices were introduced, somehow andrew and eva were volunteered to participate on stage. andrew did a quick-change into baby clothes then performed an erotic dance and strip tease much to our horror/delight. i believe he won a set of 2 card monte cards for his effort.
the second act closed as we were served an out of the box 3/4 inch slice of strawberry cheesecake and given out ballots to vote on the murderer. the winner was announced and we all felt at this point that the worst was over. we were wrong. so very wrong.
what followed next feels like a fever dream. if salvador dali created a film of lounge act wanna-be's and said film was viewed while a steady drip of pcp and a distillation of the adrenal glands of a rabid skunk was administered intravenously it might come close to the experience. i may have blessedly forgotten a detail or two in what follows but hopefully my fellow travelers will fill in what i miss
1. a woman who had been reading fortunes in the back came to the stage which she shared which a rabbit, sitting in a pot on a stool. this entertainer was of hungarian origin or perhaps it was oklahoma, or maybe to hungarian part of oklahoma. she proceeded to sing patsy cline's crazy to a backing track. then killed the music and gave us 3 more numbers accapella. these included somewhere over the rainbow, and the age of aquarius which was helped along by the audience.
2. one of the actors returned to the stage to treat us to his comedy act. the act consisted of a set of racial stereotypes. maisa found this part depressing, we had to agree that this was the biggest buzz-kill of the night, happy friggen new year. whooo!
3. next up was the light and sound guy who manipulated several balls then juggled and dropped some pins.
4. we were now served a thimble full of champagne from a 3 dollar bottle. noisemakers were twirled a popper was launched into andrew’s cheek, streamers flew and balloons dropped. they launched inexplicably into michael jackson’s billie jean. maybe this was a tribute to a has been from the wanna-be's.
the night over (though the memories will linger till the sweet release of the grave) we strolled back to andrew and eva's making a stop at the quickie mart for beer and candy(is spray candy really candy? how DO they get the flavor of ass and blueberry into a spray bottle?) we then drank our way thru cannonball run as drinking game while chris desperately called every pizza place in tucson to no avail.
the evening truly demonstrated that there is bad, there is good, there is "so bad" it's good, there is "so bad" you can't believe it hurts so good and there is bad "so bad" that it can only be enjoyed with good friends.
5th Dimension's “Age of Aquarius” has a special place in my heart. It seems to evoke a true “mystic crystal revelation”, a time of love ins, protests, LSD, and other shit like that. Although I respect the songs proper place in our nations pop culture history, I still find it extremely annoying to listen to, and avoid it whenever I can by either changing the channel, or drinking until I can't hear. Imagine my horror then, when it was placed squarely in the middle of my New Year's Eve celebration.
To be sure, this song was almost a perfect lyrical match to our evening at the Magic Murder Mystery dinner theater me and my close friends signed up for. Like the song begins, “when the moon is in the Seventh House, and Jupiter aligns with mars...”, celestial orbs had aligned for a truly cosmic abomination of magic, murder, mystery, dinner, theater, comedy,... “entertainment” in general.
In fact, the whole evening seemed to be orchestrated with very little of the best of any of those things. The highlight of the magical portion of the evening? A bunny that did not commit suicide by jumping several bunny-feet from the edge of its cake container. The most intriguing murder event? Someone dies somehow, I think with a strategically placed plastic knife. The pinnacle of mystery? A word jumble. The penultimate of our dining experience? Having two salad dressings to choose from. The highlight of the craftwork of theater? A convincing kind and gentle drag queen. The piece-de-resistance of comedy? A portion of the plot described by the host as “a wardrobe malfunction.”( I mean really, Super Bowl XXXVIII?). And finally, the singing of “Age of Aquarius,” by a woman, who goes by the name of “fortune teller/vocalist”, not so much presented as entertainment, but as a means to fill the time gap between hell and 2009.
The evening was not completely devoid of special moments, however. The tables were well stocked with new year's eve trinkets, some of which were worth pretending to steal. The typical noisemakers and streamers were abundant and pleasant to operate. The balloon drop with actual balloons dropping provided enough for every show-goer to take out their aggression thru balloon strangling therapy. And there was plenty of helium filled champagne glasses so that everyone could “let the sun shine” by getting lightheaded and screaming in a falsetto.
There were more details to make up the night, and maybe all of them added up could be considered the value of admission at $90+. But we may never know for sure, for as soon as the event was over, I promptly drank until I could not hear.
For the last several years, I've made a concerted effort to celebrate each new year in a meaningful, mindful way. To me, January has been a time of new beginnings, of meaningful and mindful reflections on life. My birthday falls early in the month and so, lends weight to the meaning- and mindfulness of the season. Feeling the years slip past seems an increasingly somber endeavor—one to mark with meaningful, mindful awareness.
For 2005-06, I stayed home and made myself dinner, lit candles, listened to music and drew a postcard as a New Year's greeting for friends and family. Meaningful and mindful rating: 10.
For 2006-07, I attended a party hosted by friends of my housemate. I considered it a chance to meet new people and expand my social circles. Meaningful and mindful rating: 7.
For 2007-08, I drove 11 hours straight to be with dear friends. Meaningful and mindful rating: 9 (with penalties for watching Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve: 8.
Each of these activities speaks to the sentimentalist in me, to the nostalgic who wonders what her grandchildren will say about the content of her diaries after she's gone (and who therefore can't bring herself to write down much of anything at all). This New Year's, however, as the clock ticked from 11:59 to 12:00 in the Mountain Time Zone and 2008 turned into 2009, I was party to a party that strip-searched my soul, confiscated its carefully stowed sentimentalism, and then slammed it up against the Great Brick Wall of Life, cuffed its whispy little wrists and growled into its ear, "Life is flippin' weird. Get flippin' used to it."
Hyperbole and anthropomorphism are both in order here, as is hyperbolic anthropomorphism. My appreciation to this New Year's party runs deep. On this side of December 31st, I am no longer a girl-child hoping for a magic show, but a grown woman staring into the cold light of each new day.
But, truth be told, a magic show is exactly what my friends and I had hoped for when we bought our razzle-dazzle dinner theater tickets to "Murder at Magic Mansion." What we got was so much more, including but not limited to the following:
1. A thinly scripted murder mystery on a rickety stage. The murder victim was a Swedish hottie. Swedish hotties are funny. Get it? (Set pieces and other trappings available from the ACME murder mystery dinner theater company.)
2. A man in a blue velveteen costume coat with red piping and gold buttons—a Napoleanic reference? An homage to marching bands?—who bustled from one side of the room to another, ran the spotlight, served as emcee, played sound effect clips from his laptop, and stopped by diners' tables to promote the on-site fortune teller services available for a fee. He made me feel sad.
3. Sad cheesecake, but not as sad as the man in the blue coat, on account of it had a cherry on top.
4. Audience participation, in the form of a hypnosis (i.e., act like an animal of your choice) scene and a dress-your-husband-like-a-giant-baby-in-bloomers-and-a-bib scene.
5. A 12-year-old girl in a pink chiffon princess dress, all dolled up for New Year's Eve, who stole the show outright and who thoroughly enjoyed herself. Instructed by the man in the sad blue coat, she helped produce a black-and-white bunny rabbit from a flaming dutch oven.
6. Tables sprinkled with party favors, including blinking red and blue plastic "ice cubes," donated by the Arizona DUI task force and intended to make you think of cop car lights in the rear view mirror as you drive home sloshed—which you shouldn't do, and which you probably didn't do at this party, because the cash bar was, well, a cash bar. The man in the sad blue coat pointed out that the plastic ice cubes were a safety reminder and that, even better, they could be placed in drink glasses to dramatic effect.
7. A stand-up comedy attempt by the guy who played Mostly Magnificent Steve in the play. He prefaced his bit by saying, "Well, some people might think that these jokes are racist, but I don't think of them that way."
8. A buxom woman in a flowing purple gown—presumably the idle fortuneteller—who sang show tunes. Early on, she announced, "Oh, who needs music! We'll do this a cappella!" And with gusto, she launched into "The Age of Aquarius." After "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and a hodgepodge of others, she was just hitting her stride when, to everyone's relief, the man in the blue coat pulled the microphone out of her hand. She looked a little p.o.'ed.
On balance, I'd recommend this show to any member of the 12-year-old demographic in the confidence that they would enjoy it as much as the girl in the pink princess dress did. I've established that I can no longer be that girl, and so I'll opt for a champagne toast with friends at midnight and maybe even a well-timed kiss. Meaningful and mindful ratings be damned. I'm sure the man in the sad blue coat would understand.