Scott Hardie | December 29, 2001
Last night, my mom and I took a train ride that served dinner and provided a murder mystery. I was expecting something a little more interactive, like with the actors hidden in plainclothes among the players and the players walking around and searching for clues. Instead, we never left our seats during the 3.5-hour ride, and watched the actors perform their scenes in front of us, as we tried to figure out which of the six of them was the killer. It wasn't all bad, but it could have been a lot better.

The main problem was the delays. Admittedly, it was a slow night because all five cars were full. I overheard one actor saying that there are usually only 2-3 cars full, sometimes only 1, and when there are more cars they have to act out the scenes that many more times. But the delays were just unbearable. They were less than five minutes between scenes early in the evening, but got longer and longer, and at the end we were waiting half an hour between scenes. Fucking A! With no food, no entertainment, no music, nothing to read except a one-page program that I read five times already, and no scenery out the window because it was dark and we were passing through a forest, I got really fucking bored in the second half of the evening. That diminished the overall fun quite a bit.

The mystery itself was all right. Six actors, none of them especially good, appeared two-at-a-time to act out scenes. One man kept forgetting his lines, and his partner didn't help by improvising conversation with the audience. (I've been in that situation where you forget your line, and I can tell you it's no help when the other actor starts going off on tangents. It breaks that narrow line of concentration that you're trying to maintain.) The actors mostly moved from the front of the train to the rear, and our car was divided into two sections. I felt sorry for people on the other side of the car because we would get the scene first, and then the actors would perform it again for them. We heard it the second time, which means they heard it the first time. They heard everything, including the end of the play, before they saw it. The mystery did stump me; I picked the murderer correctly, but for a completely incorrect reason. I was way off. But the solution to the mystery was tight, and I demand that in a mystery. Well-written, if not so well-performed. One bonus feature was that our table was right next to the middle of the train, where the actors gathered between acts to schedule their movements through the train, and take their breaks. I saw the old-lady actress pull a pack of cigarettes out of her cleavage to smoke, and I also heard another actress bitching about the train running out of 7-Up. That was neat. :-)

The food was not so good. The cheese and crackers on the table when we arrived were the best part, and my mom agreed with me on that, and she's got much better taste than I. We had cream of mushroom soup with a very thick mushroom flavor (like liquified mushrooms in your mouth), a weak house salad, the main entree (my chicken with berry sauce was good, her prime rib with gravy-like sauce was terrible), peas and carrots, rice pilaf still in the spherical shape of the scoop, and a small serving of chocolate mousse. I also went through five or six glasses of Coke, but only because I was so bored I kept sipping my drink.

The total package was $105 for two people, plus $20 for drinks (my mom had several glasses of wine), plus a $10 tip. Way too much money for what we got: Half an hour's entertainment, half an hour of eating time, and five hours of sitting still, doing nothing. (This was in Fort Myers, 75 minutes from Sarasota.) I can't recommend it.

On the plus side, I am totally recharged about running my own murder mystery party again. I got a prepackaged one for Christmas based in a disco in the 1970s, and I plan to write my own. I hope to do one or both this Spring, the sooner the better. Any suggestions for the setting for my own mystery would be welcomed. (With Dan and Angela moving away :-(, it looks like the invited guests will be Anna from Chicago, Kris from Springfield, Jackie and Jeff from Macomb, and Bill and Leslie from Cameron.)

Matthew Preston | December 29, 2001
What? I can't come to the murder mystery party? I'm only 2000 miles away...

The whole situation sounded like agony. I like the aspect of seeing and hearing the performers out of character though. A train ride should be neat, but not at night, ya? Ah well, at least bad experiences make great posts on here.

Scott Hardie | December 30, 2001
Taking place during a train ride might have made the experience better, except for the lack of view. Like I said, the whole thing was after dark, and 80% of the time there was just thick forest ten feet from the window. Sometimes we passed roads or rivers or people's backyards, but it's still damn boring. At least in a car you get road signs and billboards. :-\

It wasn't complete agony. The show was all right. I just didn't like the delays. Imagine watching a decent movie, but stopping for 10-20 minutes between scenes. Ugh.

And yes, I have noticed that I do a lot of complaining on this board, and that the majority of the entries are me griping about things. It's my number one place to blow off steam. But I try to make complaining fun. :-) Say, that sounds like a good slogan...

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