Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, July 6, 2001

Murder suspect Bitsy, played by Sheilah Sealey, left,
offers a clue to the mystery to Captain Malolo, played
by Ray Bumatai, right, in a scene from "Whodunnit
-- An All Star Mystery."

Whose crime is it anyway?

This murder mystery gets
the crowd involved in
a delicious suspense

By John Berger

Interactive theateR isn't for everyone. There's a commitment involved with it that goes beyond merely sitting back in the darkness and laughing or applauding at the right places in the performance. By definition, an interactive show requires active involvement from the audience in responding to the actors and in some cases determining where the story is going.

Getting that deeply involved in public role-playing can be more intrusive or require more work than many folks care to put in, but two interactive shows have been big hits at Manoa Valley Theatre in recent years. MVT's 1996 production of "Tony & Tina's Wedding" placed the audience in the middle of the action at a wedding reception. Two years later MVT presented "Shear Madness." In that show the action stops so the audience can ask questions and then vote on which of the several characters present is guilty of murder.

MVT's Karen Brilliande Bumatai and her husband Ray Bumatai have combined elements of both those hits in "Whodunnit?" The interactive murder mystery is presented each Sunday at All Star Hawaii in Waikiki. Ray is joined by eight other adventurous actors and the audience in determining which of several suspects is a murderer.

Is it:

>> A ditsy woman on skates (Sheilah Sealy)?
>> Chinese chef Siu Yu (Stephanie Sanchez)?
>> A waitress named Princess (Nara Springer)?
>> A rough-edged photographer (Russell Motter)?

There are several other possibilities as well.

HPD detectives Bumatai and BullDog conduct the investigation with an assist from one Major Sergeant (Charles Timtim) and his wife, Patty Marie Sergeant (Bridget Kelly). The quartet works the room in teams of two. They move from table to table asking questions and drawing the audience into the action. How far you go is up to you.

All Star Hawaii patrons Cheryl Tamanaha, left, and Dean
Miyamoto munch on nachos as Captain Malolo, played
by Ray Bumatai, left, conducts his interrogation of
suspect, witnesses and the audience.

The suspects also work the room but they're trying to deflect suspicion away from themselves and toward other characters. Secrets are uncovered and plausible motives established for each -- illicit romances, dubious business dealings. Misinformation and various "red herrings," puns, non sequiturs, and comic characterization add to the overall entertainment value.

Ray Bumatai presides with his familiar genial charm. BullDog adds a bit of an edge. Sealy and Sanchez compete with each other in playing over-the-top characters. Sealy goes for cutesy as the ditz on wheels while Sanchez's belligerent Chinese cook adds a familiar comic ethnic character to the mix. (Tom Dwight completes the cast as the restaurant's piano player.)

Murder suspect Wendell Welsh, played by Russell Motter,
left, is questioned by Sergeant Ooze played by Bull Dog.

An open interrogation session allows the audience to direct questions to any and all of the performers. Eventually the investigation comes down to a vote.

Motter, who has been an excellent villain in several conventional theatrical productions around town, "won" the vote recently and the show played out with the photographer being exposed as the killer.

It could all turn out differently when "Whodunnit?" plays again this Sunday.

A dinner of mystery

What: All Star Murder Mystery Night
When: 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: All Star Hawaii, 2080 Kalakaua Ave.
Cost: $15
Call: 945-7000

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