Mystery farce packs surprises

Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2005

Surprises are always a big part of the murder mystery formula, but at the third annual dinner theater fund-raiser for the Kenai Performers and Kenai Senior Connections Inc., the surprises go beyond just guessing who the killer is.

Just as in 2003 and 2004, Connections members will prepare and serve the meal, then the Kenai Performers will present the murder mystery farce to serve up the laughs. This year, however, area residents attending the fund-raiser may be surprised to find that some of the dinner guests are also players.

“Dinner at Eight, Dead by Nine,” written by Soldotna High School drama instructor Mike Druce, is a comedic mystery that actually takes place in a dinner theater.

“We were looking to do something different from previous years, in a less formal setting,” Druce said. “This involves the patrons in that it plays in the audience.”

Though this is the third year the troupe will perform a Druce play, this is the first play that was written specifically for the event.

The cast of characters in-cludes the usual cornball suspects: a high-maintenence French chef, a Valley Girl with a split personality, a gold-digging debutante and a womanizing theater director are just a few.

There are rapid-fire punch lines, too, but beyond that, Druce won’t reveal much.

“Obviously, there’s going to be a murder and then it’s about who did it,” he says. “The main selling point is that its just a light evening—its about putting a bunch of silly characters in a strange situation and watching them squirm.”

According to the show’s co-producer, Carol Ford, patrons who attended the last two events also may be surprised at how different it is from previous plays.

“I think the people who have seen the other two will be pleasantly and hilariously surprised by the twists and turns of this latest from the poison pen of Mike Druce,” Ford said.

The proceeds from the event, which are split down the middle between the Performers and Senior Connections will serve a new purpose, as well.

This year’s show comes on the heels of a decision by the Performers to pursue their own building. About two years ago, the Performers began using the Old Town Playhouse for nearly all of their productions.

Ticket sales at Old Town have indicated that the group could sustain a building of its own. The performers’ share of the proceeds will go toward the goal of purchasing a playhouse.

“Up until about two years ago, we just went wherever we could find a place to do it,” she said. “We’re starting our campaign to obtain a permanent home.”

The proceeds going to Kenai Senior Connections will go toward the current kitchen renovation project and the future construction of a 30-acre campus for assisted living and additional senior housing.

“Dinner at Eight, Dead by Nine” begins with dinner at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at the Kenai Senior Citizens Center. There is no matinee this year.

Tickets are $20 and available at Charlotte’s, River City Books and the Kenai senior center. Seating is limited, and purchasing tickets in advance is recommended.

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