I seem to be making the rounds in the performing arts space lately. I attended opening night for Anything Goes! at Arena Stage (which I absolutely adored!). I even had the good fortune to walk the red carpet for the premiere of Mary Poppins Returns in Los Angeles. And I’m always quick to point out that I was a Theatre minor in college so that makes me a bit of a performing arts expert (wink, wink).
I kept my latest venture closer to home and attended a Baltimore performance by The Murder Mystery Company, a small theater company that does interactive murder mystery dinners throughout major cities in the U.S. The closest thing I’d attended to a murder mystery dinner was a trip to see Shear Madness at the Kennedy Center with my mom about a million years ago. In my mind, I was kind of expecting something similar – a stage, a set, some props, and nice, tableclothed dinner tables for our elegant meal while the mystery unfolded before our eyes.
Well, forget that. This is not that kind of theater. Don’t expect a stuffy night. Don’t expect theater patrons to be dressed to the nines (more on dress code later). Don’t expect to sit back and watch a play. And bring your older tweens and teens with you. If they’re interested, it makes for a fun family night out or an unusual date night.
The Murder Mystery Company is actually part of the American Immersion Theater which has mission to do what its name implies – immerse theatergoers in the performance. Here’s how it works:
Purchase tickets in advance for the performance you’re interested in.
Tickets can and should be purchased online as performances sell out. We were actually given VIP Tickets for a December 30th performance well in advance of the show. Then be sure to check your email.
Make your dinner selections.
Since this is a dinner theater, you’ll be eating dinner, of course. For our performance, we were actually in the upstairs event space of the restaurant, Ikaros, in an area of Baltimore known as Greek Town. First of all, I didn’t even know we had a Greek Town in Baltimore. Secondly, I’m so glad to learn about this restaurant because the food was excellent!
After your ticket purchase, you’ll receive an email confirmation with your tickets and the option to select your meal. Our choices included: Chicken Shishkebabs, Lamb Shishkebabs, Veggie Shishkebabs, Moussaka, or Pastitsio. Don’t worry. If you forget to make your meal selections, there is a default menu choice (in our case, Chicken Shishkebabs).
Print your tickets.
Whoops! I forgot to do this. I’m so used to everything being on my phone that I didn’t even think to print anything. If you don’t have your printed tickets (which just makes check in easier), be sure to have your phone. You’ll need to pull up the code on your ticket link to be admitted.
Checking in for the performance.
My only real concern about arriving for the performance was the parking. But true to what the website said, there was ample free parking close to the restaurant. Once we arrived (they recommend arriving 30 minutes early) for our 5pm performance, we waited in the check in line where we were given meal tickets corresponding to the meals we had pre-chosen and then posed for a few cutesy photos.
Note: Our VIP tickets included photo souvenirs but you have the option to look at the photos and decide if you want to purchase them before the end of the night.
You’re then escorted to your table where you’ll want to meet and greet. Your tablemates are your team for the night!
There are a few rules on the table which was helpful for us newbies (the couple beside us had done a few of these types of performances before) but the immersion begins right away. Other than the photographer, all of the actors are in character and help with the checkin process. They mix and mingle and introduce themselves to your table. But that’s not where the audience immersion ends.
It’s clear that many audience members are recruited upon checking to play characters in the evening’s performance. I wasn’t selected so I’m not sure what the process is but it appears that they give you a few props to get into character and a bit of a character “dossier.”
LET THE SHOW BEGIN!
Once you’re seated, it’s time to start eating and drinking. Salad and bread was on the table when we sat down and our meals were delivered a short time after that. While we were eating, the hostess for the evening (in character, of course), welcomed us to some rich guy’s holiday party and introduced the world’s worst comedian to the stage. After a few horrible jokes, he took a few sips from his drink and…
FELL DOWN DEAD. (or dead-ish).
The game had begun and our job was to figure out who killed him, how they killed him, and why.
When we arrived, there were already a few clues on the table – a “company newsletter” introducing us to some of the people in attendance, and a notebook that contained some vital information to be used throughout the evening. And a wad of “cash” for us to use as we spent time gathering information during the performance.
We’re introduced to all of the characters in attendance (including the audience members) and our goal is to seek them out and interrogate them. Or bribe them. Whatever works.
By the end of the night, each character is interviewed by the “detective” and our team has to determine who, what, why, and all of those other questions. While we snacked on delicious Greek desserts, the actors calculated who came up with the best answer and which tea, came in DEAD LAST. We didn’t win but we weren’t the worst!
Know Before You Go
In order to fully enjoy your night on the town, here are a few tips to make your evening a little less deadly:
- Get there early but be prepared to wait. It’s a lot of people to process.
- There are stairs involved to get to the theater upstairs. It’s not wheelchair-accessible or good for people who can’t easily climb stairs.
- Water, coffee, and tea are included with the ticket price. Soda and alcoholic drinks are available for a separate charge at the nearby bar.
- Bring cash to tip the waitstaff. Gratuity is not included and they hustle to make sure you have your food in a timely fashion!
- Dress according to the evening’s theme. Our performance was entitled, “The Most Wonderful Crime of the Year” and we were encouraged to wear our ugliest Christmas sweaters (which we did).
- Don’t take anything too seriously. It’s not an intellectual game of deductive reasoning. It’s just campy fun.
If you’re looking for good, pretty clean fun and a great Greek meal, it’s worth checking out the Murder Mystery Theater in Baltimore. I like a good night out on the town and I like to be entertained. And it’s not that easy to combine both of them, especially when you have a tween that’s a little young to be left home alone and a little old for typical family nights. We enjoyed the night out as a family and still finished early enough for more fun on the town.
American Immersive Theater provided me complimentary tickets to The Murder Mystery Company’s performance at Ikaros in Baltimore.