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Mystery theater returns! Here’s whodunnit

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The Mérida mystery theater players rehearse at Villa Martine.
The Mérida mystery theater players rehearse at Villa Martine.

The posters for the upcoming play say “Mérida’s Got Talent,” with the final word scratched out and replaced with “Murder.” But don’t be misled. The sign was correct when it just said “talent.”

The actors in rehearsal this week were ready for prime time, being in the hands of the play’s writer and director, Alicia Arcand, who has 22 years of stage credits to her name. They ran their lines and hit their marks with what seemed like very little effort, although truth be told, a lot of hard work lead up to this point in the production.

We asked Arcand a few questions as the players prepare for their debut next week. 

Let’s set the record straight. The play is about wannabe singers auditioning for a TV talent show, and in the second act, someone is murdered? Is it correct to call it a light-hearted whodunnit? 

Yes, the play is based on the TV show, and its not just singers. Any kind of talent competes on the show and gets judged by “celebrities.” Lighthearted is a very good word to describe it. At some point in the play, a murder takes place and an investigation of sorts ensues, to determine the killer. The audience will be asked to fill out a form saying who they think the killer is and why. 

A lot of madcap action precedes the mystery in Mérida's upcoming mystery comedy.
A lot of madcap action precedes the mystery in Mérida’s upcoming mystery comedy.

That sounds like a lot of fun. So who’s in the cast?

Gary DeRose as Joey Diamond, a rock star/celebrity judge of the the talent show; Ria Stewart as Sloan Harvey, the talent show producer; Patricia Johnston as Angelica LaBonita, playing an actress/celebrity judge; Leann Reagin as Ginger, the talent show’s host; Steve Davis as Serge LeCarre, auditionee; Jan Morgan as Nurse Jackie, another auditionee; and John Carney as Oscar, the Pizza Guy.

Two of the characters speak with convincing British accents. Are they legit?

Patricia’s English accent is real. She is originally from England. Gary’s is not, he’s American.

meridasgotmurderCan you explain to me a little more about the process that led you to this point?

There were two previous murder mysteries put on in Mérida in years past — 2012 and 2013, I think — by a wonderful writer/director named Jill Benson, and two members of that troupe contacted me in April 2014 and asked if I could help put on another one. I had collaborated with script writers in the past and had several years’ acting experience with murder mysteries. I started the writing process then, workshopped the script twice, and cast it in October. We opted not to hold auditions, but cast the play with a few people we knew and recruited the rest. Everyone was hand picked for the roles. 

So tell us about yourself!

Stage veteran Alicia Arcand, a Toronto native, wrote and directed "Mérida's Got Murder."
Stage veteran Alicia Arcand, a Toronto native, wrote and directed “Mérida’s Got Murder.”

I am from Toronto. I did a lot of community theatre in my youth,  and then I worked at a Musical Dinner Theatre in Niagara, called Dinner with Henry VIII, for 16 years. I also worked at the Mysteriously Yours Dinner Theatre in Toronto for several years. Also, I was part of a comedy/singing troupe called The Merry Wenches of Windsor. We toured in the United States and Canada for over 10 years. I’ve been in Mérida for three years. I am a Zumba instructor and give classes regularly, and I volunteer in a small school outside Mérida teaching English to children. 

Are tickets still available for all venues? How do you manage rehearsing for three very different spaces? Will the audience surround the stage in the round like we saw at Villa Martine? It certainly sounds like a challenge! 

Our show at Lizard Joe’s is sold out, but there are still tickets available for our performances at Hennessy’s and Villa Martine. {More details follow this interview.} We have rehearsals in people’s homes for the most part, and this week will get one rehearsal in each performance space. The show stays the same, we just work around the space we have in each venue.

The the level of skill was better than a lot of “community theater” I’ve seen. I have to say I was really impressed. How much of the cast are experienced actors? 

Some of the actors have experience, some do not. They have all just worked exceptionally hard on his play. I have worked with both professionals and non-professionals, and this group works extremely hard, and has an awful lot of fun along the way. I’m really proud of all of them!

About the Show

This “Interactive Murder Mystery Spectacular,” an all-in-good-fun community theater project, performs Feb 3, 4, 5 at Hennessy’s Irish Pub; Feb. 6 at Lizard Joe’s in Chelem; and Feb. 7 at Villa Martine back in the Centro. All shows start at 7.

Prices and menus vary by location (350 pesos at Hennessy’s, 450 pesos at Villa Martine) but includes three-course dinner; extra for drinks and gratuity.

Details, including character bios, are on their Facebook page.

The shows benefit two important causes: In Your Eyes A.C., which provides prosthetic eyes and testing to the underprivileged, and Fundación BAI A.C., which does work towards the prevention of HIV, AIDS and teenage pregnancy in the Yucatán.

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