SCT-meets-SNL as murder mystery spoofs fundraisers.
Mammoth Lakes, and indeed the Eastern Sierra in general, is a place of fundraisers. So it should come as no surprise that this month we have another one: Sierra Classic Theatre’s Murder Mystery Dinner. And, after 15 of them, this time the setting for the nonprofit organization’s 16th production is—drum roll please—a fundraiser!
“Murder Gras,” written and directed by SCT’s Allison McDonell Page (who also has a supporting role in the show), is a spoof of local non-profits and their associated fundraisers. The show’s Mardi Gras theme is designed to encourage the audience to join in with festive attire.
Previous murder mysteries have sometimes been more “on the nose,” poking good-natured fun at everything from local culture, events, town and county government, and notable personalities—including one fellow who wears a signature black t-shirt, among others. Page emphasized that, as is typical with the shows, the characters are based on people folks might know, but often are hybrids and collages of notable locals, with a few gender reversals thrown in to keep them extra interesting. “It’s a cross between reality and fantasy,” she added.
“Jimbo Marcotte [one of the cast members] had the original seed idea, and my husband [the writer David] helped,” Page said of the show’s concept. “It raced out of me when I started writing it.”
It was fresh, and funny too, during Wednesday’s sold-out opening night at Lakanuki. The performance coincided with Page’s birthday, and the evening’s shenanigans were on a party note from the get-go, starting with dinner. Lakanuki owner Stu Need used the occasion to show off some of his new menu offerings, and scored big with excellent salmon and steaks.
Not giving away the ending, I can tell you that the play takes place in the fictional town of Pinewich, where the 16th annual PTGSPPA fundraiser (it has to do with saving the squirrels) is being held at the Travelodge. As the event unfolds, we meet the eccentric core group of locals, one of whom isn’t going to live to see dessert.
Onstage, Stacie Borah is delightfully droll as Barb Rollis, PTGSPPA’s bra-less Executive Director. As Earl “The Squirrel” Whatley, Jimbo Marcotte plays everyone’s favorite “Squirrel Whisperer.” The press doesn’t get a pass here either, with newcomer Layne Derocher playing James Brunch, publisher of Pinewich’s “Daily Sandwich.” Wendy Watson is a comedic tornado as Amy Able, the local with 10 jobs who can barely make ends meet.
Stage and murder mystery veteran Jarrett Jackson is a tour de force as Brittany Brace, an overachieving ortho surgeon, who’s training for a 300-mile foot race. Marlene Piper is delicious as the slightly ego-driven Julia Childs wannabe Chef Inga Lingonberry. And another murder mystery veteran, Mike Dostrow, hits all the right notes as local mechanic and musician Randy Diesel. Dostrow even shows off his guitar playing—his reworking of Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Our House” is a particular hoot!
Eastern Sierra writer and actor Jesse Steele served up a brilliant Chester Brunch, the attention starved, aspiring baker and chef. (Don’t ask him about his tight pants.) And Shanda Duro was light and breezy as Darlene Breezy, the bling-obsessed and somewhat controversial head of Pinewich’s Tourism & Marketing Department.
Rounding out the cast are Stacy Corless and Sarah Lawrence, alternating as Randy’s tattooed and Jagermester-fueled half-sister, Trixie, and Page herself as Randy’s other half-sister, Dixie.
Prizes will be given for correctly guessing the killer and the most creative description of the murderer’s modus operandi. In addition to raising funds for Sierra Classic Theatre, Page said an equally important goal is to pack houses and support the local business community, which typically struggles a bit during shoulder season.
Performances: Nov. 12-13 at Tom’s Place, tix $40, RSVP: 760.935.4239, and Nov. 14 at Mammoth Rock ‘n Bowl, tix $60, RSVP: 760.934.4200. Doors at 6 p.m., shows at 7 p.m. nightly. Check SCT’s Facebook page for any updates.
This review is dedicated to the late Dan Dennis, a veteran of many previous murder mysteries