Pillbox

Surprise! You're dead.

Every Saturday night in September and October, the Green Room at the Funny Bone in Station Square will be putting on It’s My Party and I’ll Die If I Want To!, a comedic, interactive murder mystery. A McCaffery Mysteries production, this murder mystery gives the members of the audience more than some good laughs; it gives them a chance to participate in charity. McCaffery Mysteries, Inc.’ is a non-profit organization benefiting both the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania.

It’s My Party and I’ll Die If I Want To! is a surprise party for Ted’s (Larry Herman) 50th birthday, hosted by his overly fatuous wife, Tiffany (Erica Skirpan). The audience plays the role of the party’s guest, so expect Tiffany to greet you sometime during the play as “Francine, who just got out of rehab,” or some such thing. Of course, there are other invited guests: Ted’s senile and sour father George (David Bonta), and Ted’s bitter ex-wife Sandy (Karen Walker).

Before Ted makes his appearance, the caustic conversations between the three fill the audience in on Ted’s character. He is a “professional disappointment” in his father’s eyes, is a womanizer in Sandy’s, and, as Tiffany reveals, has entered into a mid-life crisis. Tiffany’s “proper” and “sweet” nature causes her to only see a troubled, dear husband. However, Ted brings along an unexpected guest who forces Tiffany to further sink into denial about her husband’s true nature.

Just after the audience screams out, “Surprise!” and sings “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow,” Ted (wearing a “Vote for Pedro” shirt, no less) reveals that he will be leaving Tiffany for Promise (Kari Kleemook), a simple-minded, well-built teenage girl. He leaves an upset Tiffany behind to fetch Promise in his Mercedes, and all the characters exit the scene to deal with the situation in the ways they see fit.

Then the murder takes place. After everyone is inside, a guard (Matt Freas) enters to inform everyone that a murder has taken place in the parking lot. Promise enters the room and screams that blood has gotten on her skirt. It is revealed that Ted has been murdered by being repeatedly run over by his own Mercedes. Coincidentally, each of the characters has a key.

After some debate, the audience is left to help the guard figure out who the murderer is. The cast passes out some sheets filled with questions that the audience must answer. With three tie-breaker questions, the majority vote determines the ending, or, who killed Ted. To top it off, the cast hands out awards for “The Most Clueless,” “CSI Detective” (the one who tried too hard), and the “Winner of the Day,” who gets a T-shirt along with his or her certificate in celebration of accurateness.

The cast works well together. Although each character portrays a certain extreme (one is very stupid while another is very bitter, for example), the actors use the wit in the script to maintain a kind of balance; each overwhelming personality constantly thwarts another. For example, Ted’s father and ex-wife take turns subverting his current wife Tiffany’s edgy voice with their sardonic and unfeeling tones.

Playing the guard, Freas is one of the last actors to appear, and he offers a refreshing feel to the play. His tennis shoes and frequently befuddled expression seem perfectly fitting for a man who doesn’t mind looking up a teenager’s skirt as he tries to solve a murder mystery.
Artistic director and director Cory McCaffery Sigler keeps a good eye for using all of his cast’s talents. Kleemook, who has a B.F.A. in musical theater from Youngstown State University, turns singing to a comedic ploy when Promise sings “I Will Always Love You” as an abrupt eulogy for Ted.

So, for anyone who is clueless as what to do on a Saturday night, a charitable, interactive murder mystery is not a bad idea. It’s only 20 bucks plus a two-drink minimum — and you get to see naked ladies. They’re on the walls.