Everyone loves a good murder mystery at the theater. But what happens when you deep-fry the plot in Southern flavor, salt it heavily with comedy, invite audience members to interrogate the suspects and throw in a fancy dinner, y’all? Fayetteville-born and Charlotte-based playwright Elaine Alexander explores this question with “‘M’ is for Mullet!” It debuts, presented by Fayetteville Dinner Theatre, May 31-June 1 at Gates Four Golf and Country Club.
Darleen Dewberry, beloved hair-cutter and mullet-master in the small Southern town of Grissetville, owned Curl Up and Dye Salon before her untimely expiration. She was found dead in her salon next to a spilled bottle of Cheerwine, a can of Aqua Net hairspray and a half-eaten fruitcake. But who killed her?
Audience members will have opportunities to watch for clues and talk to suspects during the show and try to figure it out. “When you arrive at the venue, you will be arriving at Darleen’s memorial service,” FDT Producer Bill Bowman said. “It’s an immersive theater experience where the actors will be interacting (in character) with you.”
In their own words, let’s meet the six official suspects in the murder of Dewberry.
Editor’s note: The following “interviews” come from a feature on “‘M’ is for Mullet!” written by playwright Elaine Alexander that was first published in the May 2019 issue of Women’s View Magazine.
Beau E. Johnson, “The Mullet Man”: “I’m a local legend as the inventor of ‘The Mullet’ hairdo. I may have cut hair too short, but I’ve never cut a life too short. If you’re investigating somebody who could have murdered Darleen, look at the other five suspects or the town’s new mayor. I heard she hated her new Mullet hairdo that Darlene gave her.”
Mario Fellini: “My restaurant has a reputation for having the best Italian cuisine, and I’ve got a reputation for cheating on the ladies. But I’m not a killer. I’m a lover! Interrogate my waitress — she’s an excon. Or maybe the town’s new mayor. She showed up at my restaurant cursing Darleen’s name.”
Kat Chatterton: “I’m the town’s biggest celebrity — the TV hostess of ‘Kat’s Chat,’ Grissetville’s local lifestyle show. Why would I risk my fame to kill Darleen — even if she was seeing my boyfriend, Mario? Y’all need to interrogate the town’s con artist psychic, Verita. Or the town’s other crook, Grissetville’s new mayor.”
Rae Shawn Simmons: “I run the Bounce That Booty Gym. I give ‘killer’ workouts. But I’m not a killer, although Darleen did threaten to sue me. If you want the real killer, I’d check out Mario, who was two-timing her with Kat. Or the town’s new mayor. She was sweating last time I saw her. And I know it wasn’t from exercise.”
Wanda June James: “I’m a former cheerleader stuck waiting tables at Mario’s Italian Restaurant. I’m also an ex-jailbird, and there’s no way I’d do something to get me caged up again. If you want to know the real killer, talk to Rae Shawn or that new mayor. I’ve heard them both at the restaurant complaining about Darleen.”
Verita Delgado: “I may be a psychic, but I don’t know who murdered Darleen. I just know it wasn’t me — even though she ruined my fortune-telling business with her lies. My tarot cards say to look at two-timing Mario or that new mayor. I saw her give me the Evil Eye.”
Of the the show, Alexander said, “It’s an unconventional night of entertainment. You’ll die of laughter; it’s not serious, and it’s fastpaced. Murder has never been so funny. All the characters have a motive. ... If (the audience) is paying attention, they’ll figure it out.”
Prior to the formal start of the show, a reception for Darleen’s memorial service will feature a wine-tasting and cash bar courtesy of Leclair’s General Store, and live music by KasCie Page.
Once seated, audience members need not sleuth on an empty stomach. Dinner includes a double entree of seasoned beef tips and chicken picatta, Southern-style green beans, buttered parsley red potatoes, dinner rolls and strawberry cheesecake. Mystery door prize bags will also be distributed.
The table that figures out who the killer is will receive a grand prize at the end of the evening.
Bowman said what caught his eye about Alexander’s script was her unique sense of humor and the story’s clever twists. “The way she tied in these different characters and everything actually had me laughing out loud because they’re almost like cartoons,” he said. “It’s unique. It’s a different kind of comedy.”
Alexander’s one-act comedies have been festival winners at theaters throughout the United States, most notably in New York City and Los Angeles, California, and as far away as Sydney, Australia, and Cuenca, Ecuador. She is a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Media and Journalism alumnus and a fourth-generation Fayetteville native.
“My great-grandfather rode in the first car in Fayetteville,” she said. “My family has lived on a farm that was owned by my great-grandfather since practically the 19th century, on Morganton Road.
“I grew up in Fayetteville. I’m a Southern girl. The characters in the play are ones that I have known in my life.” Obviously, Alexander, added, they’re a bit exaggerated for comedic effect.
Bringing “Mullet’s” characters to life are The Hot Mess Players, a Charlotte-based dinner theater group Alexander created to perform both private and public murder mystery productions throughout the Carolinas.
Bowman thanks the show’s pemiere sponsors for their generosity: Healy Wholesale, Ramada Plaza, and Paul Mitchell the School Fayetteville.
There are three opportunities to see “‘M’ is for Mullet!” at Gates Four Golf and Country Club, 6775 Irongate Dr. Friday, May 31, there is a matinee showing at noon; doors open at 11:30 a.m. It costs $55. That evening, there is a show at 7 p.m., with doors opening at 6 p.m. Saturday, June 1, there is a show at 7 p.m, with doors opening at 6 p.m. The evening shows cost $75 per person or $65 for seniors, active-duty service members and Gates Four residents. Reserve your spot and purchase tickets at www.fayettevilledinnertheatre.com.
Photo: L to R: Peter Guarascio as Mario Fellini, Dominic Hilton as Rae Shawn Simmons, Keith Hopkins as Beau Elvis Johnson, Kellie Floyd Payne as Kat Chatterton, Eva Montes as Verita Delgado, Eileen Davis as Wanda June James and Lonnie Gregory as The Sheriff.
Photo credit: Carlo Pieroni