Written & Directed by John E. Repa
Murder Mystery Dinner Train
Seminole Gulf Railway - 41110 Center Pointe Dr.
Fort Myers, 800-SEM-GULF; 239-275-8487
Wednesdays & Saturdays through June 2010

Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker

Throughout Florida there's been an explosion recently of interactive mystery plays for dinner theatre set up in hotels, organization lodges, restaurants—and yes, even traditional theatres. Perhaps the oldest continuing fare offered in the most nontraditional venue is the Fay Family's Seminole Gulf Railway Dinner Train. Since it debuted Murder on the Seminole Express in January 1991, it has  premiered over 65 new mysteries in four renovated vintage dining railcars. Resident playwright John E. Repa at present boasts a modern "Murder on the Menu" alternating with his Scottish mystery on all but Monday and Tuesday each week. He usually takes a part as well. Here it's as a hired detective's chronicler, compatriot, and manager of sorts, Dr. James Watkins, the least flamboyant character. In fact, Ripa's calm Watkins looks more like the movies' Sherlock Holmes, in mien and costume, than his sidekick. As one might suspect, Watkins' narrative lines are very clear.
The mystery: Who has killed the Scottish Lord Kildonan, 1890, aboard his Florida bound train? Is it his relatively new bride from Luxembourg (played with many a tear, wink, and flourish by beautiful Wende Gilmore), who's found to be not new to widowhood? Maybe she killed to be a rich heiress. Is it the pretty maid Morgana (overly enthusiastic, over accented Leeanna Mantica)? After all, the Lord beat her. On the other hand, being a Scot, she was closest in kinship to the "laird" and faithfully had served his clan, first wife included. Last to see him alive was Sherwood Elmes (confident Timothy J. Gunderman), hired by the murdered to prevent his murder. Do Elmes' complaints about a bounced paycheck indicate a motive for murder? But wouldn't a doctor like Watkins best know about and have access to the mysterious poison that caused Lord Kildonan's demise?
Diners amass clues on provided lists during scenes played between several courses being served through at least three hours. (Duration depends on whether three or four of the train's cars are full, because the various scenes must be repeated in each. Repa's hardest task: to sequence them in interchangeable order, in case diners from one car see into an adjoining one. He's obviously experienced at the task.) Whoever guesses killer, means, and motive in each car gets a prize at evening's end. If there's a tie, a bonus question comes into play. It's all laid back fun: an evening meal and entertainment that may be enjoyed by locals but primarily tourists.
Wende Gilmore, of Vamped Up Vintage, is responsible for the handsome period costumes. The most elaborate is the purple gown and hat she wears as Lady Kildonan. There's no stage sound or lighting, and they're missed at times. Robert Fay is the Producer. 

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