Aberdeen Community Theatre’s newest production, “Murder at Cafe Noir”, marked their return to dinner theater after 25 years. The show ran from September 27 to 29 and October 2 to 8. Every ticket purchase included the play, a souvenir cup, and a meal catered by Ken’s SuperFair Foods.
The last dinner theater production was “Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding” in 1998. “Murder at Cafe Noir” was also the first dinner theater production performed on their own stage. Initially, there had been plans to host the show at another venue like their previous dinner theater productions, but the stage was beautifully decorated to accommodate both actors and guests.
“Murder at Cafe Noir” is a 1940s inspired detective story that includes plenty of audience participation. Patrons enjoyed their dinner and drinks as they helped a private investigator solve a murder at a Caribbean cafe that was seemingly stuck in the 40s. The colorful characters were all dressed in black and gray clothing that gave off an ‘old-timey’ feel, which added a fun extra layer to the show’s ambiance. Instead of a regular playbill, a newspaper with information about the case was placed at each seat.
“Each season we try to find different styles we can work with,” Associate Artistic/Managing Director Brian Schultz said. “And this show just seemed like something fun to do. All comedy shows are fun, but we want variety too.”
During the show, patrons were seated directly on stage with the actors. While patrons were being seated, the actors mingled with them in character. It was an immersive way for the audience to get a feel for the characters before the show started.
“The script just said ‘mingle’, but we added on to it,” Schultz said. “Our cast has a wide variety of improv experience, and it can be different every show depending on what the patrons are like.”
Planning the logistics with the food and flow of people was the hardest thing to do. The staging for this show was pretty different than a regular performance, but Schultz said that at the end of the day, it’s just another show.
The food and bar will be located in the theater’s shop space, so a lot of time went into making sure the shop looked fitting for the show. A partition was set up in between courses, and there were brief intermissions as the food was served. All of the conversions to the shop space were built in about a week. Schultz also noted that the set had to be disassembled in order to host the South Dakota Film Festival, which has always been held in the theater.
Since dinner was held on the stage itself, seating was very limited. To make up for that, the play ran for ten days instead of their usual five. Ticket sales for the show were high – Aberdonians were excited to welcome back dinner theater. //