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Dinner theater without a stage

“Café Noir” assistant director and cast member Ric Munhall promises the show won’t be an average Olympic Theatre Arts production.

“We did dinner theater about two years ago, but it was nothing like this,” Munhall explained at a rehearsal. “The audience will have plenty of opportunity to participate.”

The audience is so involved in this play, explained the cast members, that they won’t even have a stage — all the acting will be done among the tables and the acts will take place between appetizers, an entree and dessert.

The show is set in the 1940s and features a private investigator, played by Bud Davies, who is out to find a runaway on the island of Mustique, on the edge of the Caribbean Sea. The owner of the Café Noir is found murdered and the culprit could be any of a colorful mix of characters: the French club manager, played by Terry Smithton; the voodoo priestess, played by Marie O’Neill; the British lawyer, played by Dave McInnes; or the femme fatale, played by Charisa Nelson.

Cast member Roger Presley explained that the audience will have a real chance to play detective.

“We’ll hand out paper and pencils so they can write down the clues as they come,” Presley said. “We may even ask them a question or two. The audience has to figure out whodunit.”

The play, for which the cast members have been rehearsing about a month, also features musical numbers. A few members of the cast have solos and there are some lively group numbers, Munhall said.

According to the cast members, the production is a comic tribute to the black and white “Bogart era,” and all the cast members are asked to dress only in black or white. The cast members carefully picked out appropriate costumes and showed up in full dress for a rehearsal three weeks before opening day. Staying true to their characters, they searched for and found the perfect outfits: private detective Davies wore a trench coat and a hat, voodoo priestess O’Neill donned all white with a head wrap.

“I’ve got so much hairspray on this thing that I don’t think a tornado could loosen it up,” said Smithton, who plays the French club owner, patting her hair and laughing.

Smithton admitted she is very much into the skin of her mysterious character.

“I found myself speaking in a French accent to my dog!” she laughed.

Each of the eight performances, which begin Valentine’s Day, are evening performances due to the dinner involved and Munhall stressed that the play would not be of interest to children.



A dark mystery

What: Olympic Theatre Arts presents dinner theater production “Café Noir,” written by David Landau and directed by Tracy Williams

When: Opens Feb. 14, with eight performances through Feb. 24

Where: Sequim Elks Lodge, 143 Port Williams Road

Tickets: $35 for dinner and the show, available by calling OTA

Contact: 683-7326

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