The dine-in play will run for three performances with a show each night at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 7, 8, and 9 at the Colonial Inn in Concord.
Actors from Littleton’s Cannon Theatre will transform Concord’s historic Colonial Inn into a 1920s cruise ship floating in the English Channel to solve its next murder-mystery dinner – “Murderous Crossing.”
The dine-in play will run for three performances with a show each night at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 7, 8, and 9.
Throughout the murder-mystery dinner, audience members will watch a crime unfold over a four-course meal and have the chance to piece together clues throughout the performance to solve the case.
“It’s a wedding and then chaos ensues, but it’s a lot of fun,” play director Tara Earl said.
This is the third murder-mystery dinner held at the Colonial Inn as part of a partnership with Cannon Theatre and it’s the first time there will be three performances. Each of the previous shows has added an extra performance after tickets sold out.
“It’s exciting. I think it’s gone off really well,” Earl said. “I think it’s been really well received.”
“Murderous Crossing” is also the third murder-mystery dinner play put on by Cannon Theatre at the Colonial Inn written by David Landau, but this show is a bit different from past performances, according to Earl, with smarter writing and an easier story to follow.
“I picked this show partially because it’s the same author as the past two years,” said Earl. “It’s a different story... but for the people that really liked the past two years, it’s the same style, it’s the same type of writing, but it’s a totally new story.”
Trouble at sea
“Murderous Crossing” starts with a wedding on a cruise ship, but things get interesting when the bride and groom try to swindle each other out of perceived fortunes only to realize that neither one of them actually has any money, according to Earl.
With both of the newlyweds having debts to pay, things then get dangerous, added Earl.
“So they both have landed themselves in some hot water and they need to make the money back that they’ve lost,” Earl said.
Although there is no stage at the Colonial Inn, the Cannon Theatre actors are used to working with restricted space from past performances at their modest-sized theater in Littleton on Great Road.
“Getting in the space, you have to adapt,” said Earl. “It’s kind of a good setup that we have here, I think it’s going to make it easy to adapt into the space, but you never actually get to practice it until the week of.”
The actors also have to use improvisation to navigate the new setting and play off different audience reactions each show.
Cannon Theatre actor John Lynch plays a priest with a drinking habit in “Murderous Crossing” and has been in all three of the theater company’s murder mystery dinners at the Colonial Inn.
For Lynch, the best part of performing in murder mystery dinners is the chance to interact with the audience on a more personal level and to get them involved in the show.
“I love the fact that you get to actually do them out in the audience. That’s the most fun,” Lynch said. “It’s like the people are up on stage.”
“Murderous Crossing” has more audience involvement than past Cannon Theatre murder-mystery dinners, according to Lynch, with this show actually putting audience members into roles in the play like mother of the groom or best man in the wedding.
“That’s one of the nicer things about it, we actually literally sort of pull them into the action,” said Lynch. “So that’s a lot of fun.”
When audience members are a part of the play and have to improvise spoken lines, it takes engagement with the show to another level, Lynch said.
“It’s a blast because it means you’re not just in character up behind the proscenium, you’re in character 360 like walking around and being amongst people,” said Lynch.
Earl has directed about 10 plays before “Murderous Crossing,” doing mostly children’s theater, but this is her first time directing a murder-mystery dinner.
“It’s fun to be able to come up with these concepts that are a bit deeper,” Earl said of the transition. “I like working with adults and seeing what’s in their brains. And the category’s really fun because you get to work with the audience and I think a big part of this type of theater is what happens once you start the show.”