Strangers and nuns solve mystery of “Mary Murderer”

If there are two things students at the College are always looking for, it’s entertainment and food. Students in search of these and more were able to find it in the All College Theater (ACT) murder mystery dinner production of Billy St. John’s “Murder Can Be Habit-Forming,” which was performed in the Decker main lounge on Feb. 18 and 19.

From the moment the audience walked in, they were greeted by the cast of characters and extras as though they too were part of the show. They came to find that they had been on a bus en route to Canada, which happened to break down, bringing all involved to St. Mary’s Convent.

St. Mary’s was occupied by an eclectic group of sisters, each of whom was named Mary. Reverend Mother Mary Cecilia, played by Alyssa Phillips, freshman secondary education and history major, added a sense of balance and calm amidst the harried atmosphere. She consistently repeated her words of the wisdom, “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” Sister Mary Agatha, played by Lemor Ba-ror, freshman elementary education and sociology major, provided the most comic relief as an aging, scatterbrained, slightly senile, though ultimately harmless nun whose misunderstandings caused much laughter.

Allison Lawler, sophomore philosophy major, saw last year’s Murder Mystery and was not disappointed by this weekend’s show. “It was very funny,” she said. “It was a zany premise that was put together very well.”

The dynamic of the show was maintained by the riotous interactions between the sisters and the unusual collection of strangers brought to their door. The passengers of the ill-fated bus included a snooty, self-absorbed actress, Erika Kincaid; a student at St. Mary’s University, Mary Bishop; a former nun and teacher, Laura Evans; a police officer, Lieutenant MacDougal; a professor of literature at St. Mary’s, David Lewis; an easily startled and extremely paranoid columnist for The New York Times, Jerome Stacey; a slightly dim-witted, rock and roll musician, Torch; their bus driver, Willard Patterson; and Mary Adams, who remained cryptic and secretive about her reasons for being there.

After a frightening radio announcement, it is discovered that the “Mary Murderer” is on the loose, killing only those named Mary, thereby inducing a sudden panic through St. Mary’s. As fate should have it, the group of travelers had eaten at the Chat ‘N’ Chew Diner, which had been the scene of the murder of waitress Mary Lester, who incidentally had waited on them. Suspicions and fears arise in St. Mary’s as they try to uncover the identity of the disturbed killer. But naturally, it is harder to pinpoint than anticipated as everyone does or says something that raises eyebrows.

Is it Herman, the disgruntled handyman, who knows about the hidden passageways in the old building? Could it be Ryan, Mary Bishop’s boyfriend who mysteriously appears on the grounds immediately after the first murder at the convent?

At intermission, the audience was given the opportunity to try their hand at solving the homicide case and voting on who they believed the murderer to be while they snacked on a selection of hors d’oeuvres. When the show ended, those who guessed correctly had their names entered in a raffle to receive tickets to ACT’s production of “Noises Off,” coming this April.

Marty Rowan, junior psychology major, played Herman in what was his first show with ACT. Though the humor was apparent to him in rehearsals, he was impressed by the audience’s great reception. “(They) laughed at things I didn’t expect them to laugh at,” he said.

Kim Lowden, senior history and secondary education major, took on the responsibility of directing ACT’s third annual murder mystery dinner. Lowden actively participates in theatrics on campus, as she is a member of the Mixed Signals, the improvisational comedy troupe, and was a part of the ensemble of last year’s murder mystery. The show was cast and rehearsed in three weeks.

Lowden personally selected and proposed this particular show, and the audience came to find that she was right in saying, “You can’t really beat nuns.” As for her cast, she said, “In one word, awesome.”