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
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
), 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
)? 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.
, 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.