The site is the Vegas Motel on North Hill, but the scene is set in California's Napa Valley. The date is Sept. 28, 2012, but you'll think it's 1997.
The Minot Area Theatrical Society is hosting a murder-dinner theater, "A Taste for Wine and Murder," which actor Damien Walsh describes as "a two-hour scripted improv." Walsh plays Papa Vito, who has been at the Underwood Winery for 60 years, and is now 81 years old. This is his first role with MATS, but the group did the same show in Stanley recently, so he is well-prepared.
The idea behind the dinner theater is an interactive one, with the actors giving clues and answering questions throughout the dinner, ensuring that the audience receives all the necessary information before they offer their ideas about "whodunit."
From left, top row first, cast members Cassie Rech, Jake Borja, Damien Walsh, Hope Sadler, Amanda Kraft, Stephen Young, and Kit Young and Les Younger, bottom row, rehearse a scene from “A Taste for Wine and Murder.”
Directed by Nicolette Nelson Eisenzimmer, several members of the cast have participated in a number of these MATS specialties in the past, like Les Younger, who plays FBI agent Bud Wizer.
"He's in love with her; she's had several husbands who've died mysteriously; some of them want to buy the Underwood Winery; we're not sure whether he's who he says he is; she has a hidden connection to the dead man - that kind of thing," Younger said. "We give the audience the chance to ask about motives, and we explain the clues various others have revealed. With the other ones we've done, someone always manages to guess the killer, and the tiebreaker, if more guess correctly, is the motive. We always seem to get a clear winner."
Other veterans of MATS productions include Amanda Kraft as Marilyn Merlot, Jake Borja as Ralph Rottingrape, and Kit Young as Tiny Bubbles. Newcomers include Stephen Young as Otto Von Schnapps, Hope Sadler as Hedy Shablee, Cassie Rech as Bonny Lass (from Scotland), and Walsh.
"You can be prepared for another death," said Walsh. "Remember I play an octogenarian."
While the story is about the discovery of the body of Barry Underwood - who went missing during an earthquake five years ago - during a wine tasting, the real question is who will get to the right answer in the end.
"With two shows, you can come both nights for a completely different experience," said Kraft.
There is a cash bar, but the $20 ticket price includes dinner. This is not part of the season ticket, but you could come and try to earn one with your detective skills. Shows are at 7 p.m., with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. Reservations can be made by calling 509-5215.