COURTESY OF ANDREW MEADER
Weekly murders return to Dave & Buster's with cast members Sherry Shaoling, left, Stu Hirayama, Gene DeFrancis, Erik Manke and Mericia Palma.
D&B’s has fun and mystery on menu
Dave & Buster's Mystery Dinner Theatre provides dinner and interactive entertainment for little more than you'd expect to pay for dinner alone. "Mobster in the Men's Room," the latest in the series, follows the familiar dramatic arc of these boilerplate mysteries, offering a family-friendly evening of G-rated entertainment.
Mystery Dinner Theatre
"Mobster in the Men's Room"
Place: Dave & Buster's, Ward Entertainment Center
Time: 6:50 p.m. Saturdays through Aug. 19
Tickets: $34.95, includes dinner and soft drinks; discounts available
Call: 589-2215; reservations required
The action starts when a federal agent shows up at a party and serves subpoenas on the managing partners of the accounting firm of Ready, Willing and DePower. One of the firm's clients, a mobster named Freddy "The Snake" Cobra, is about to be busted on tax charges and the partners have been implicated, but before the agent can put the cuffs on Cobra, someone kills the mobster in the men's room.
Was the killer one of the accountants, afraid Cobra would confirm their guilt? Or was it his partner, the seemingly spacey Carlotta Carlisle? Or the agent, WD-40, also the mobster's first ex-wife?
The audience has a stake in finding the killer because the winning sleuths -- each table works as a team -- receive a $5 Dave & Buster's Power Card.
Mystery fans who have enjoyed previous shows will find "Mobster" another challenging puzzle.
As directed by MDT veteran Troy Apostol, the acting and characterizations are not quite as over-the-top as in some previous shows, although significant melodrama is still involved. Sherry Shaoling (Agent WD-40) reprises her standard role as the barely dressed "babe" of the show, but this time she's a lethal femme fatale rather than an airhead. When an accountant exclaims, "You're like the devil!" Shaoling pauses, appears to consider the comment, then replies coldly, "In many ways, yes!"
And although the script is at heart basic boilerplate mystery from D&B corporate, it relies less on fill-in-the-blanks local references for laughs than some others. It also makes effective use of topical references -- to Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise and "The da Vinci Code," among others -- and some so-bad-they're-funny bits, such as one-liners about "the accounts of Monte Cristo."
Consider this exchange:
Character A: "You're supposed to answer truthfully."
Character B: "Then send Truthfully in and I'll talk to him."
That bit probably dates from the early days of Vaudeville, but it still works.
Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time during the performance I attended for the suspects to visit all the tables to be questioned. (The rules for this part are simple: The characters can't lie, and they must answer any question except any variation of "Are you the murderer?" or "Is someone else the murder?")
Dinner, however, was more fun than usual. The cast dines with the audience, and veteran actor and improv comic Gene DeFrancis (John Ready) kept my tablemates -- Kerry Ichimasa and Carrie and Carly Sakuma -- laughing over their prime rib as he loudly announced the presence of celebrities he saw at tables in other parts of the room. These included "Tattoo" (a child who seemed to enjoy the attention), "the Royal Family" (a woman who was wearing a crown to celebrate her birthday), Danny Glover, Hugh Hefner, someone from "American Idol," and so on. DeFrancis' improv bits added a fresh touch and additional entertainment value.