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Murder, wedding collide over dinner

You've heard of the typical wedding glitches: cold feet, wardrobe malfunctions, family feuds. Now, try a murder.

It's an element that collides with marital bliss in "'Til Death Do Us Part," the newest production from the Columbus Mystery Theatre. The interactive show, written by Kate and JJ Musgrove, invites guests to the wedding of Miss Stormy Fairweather and Mr. Jethro Gizzard.

The affair is picturesque -- until you consider the groom’s absence and the bride’s decision to barricade herself in the dressing room.

Then, there’s the other guests and their "colorful" personalities, including wedding planner Sergio Spinnalli and maid of honor Tansy Homely, who’s always a bridesmaid and never a bride. Seventeen times.

Not to mention the fact that a few of the wedding guests start to die off between dinner courses.

Usual suspects, new venue

The Columbus Mystery Theatre, which operates with a format similar to Atlanta theater Agatha's: A Taste of Mystery, performed its first production in February.

That show was held at special events venue the Garrett-Bullock House on Second Avenue. Now, the group has a new home.

"We've started a new partnership with the historic downtown Marriott. We’re here to stay," said Kate Musgrove, producing artistic director and co-playwright for the current production.

Beginning in late July, "'Til Death Do Us Part" runs every Friday and Saturday through late September.

Audience members dine in the Columbus Marriott’s Empire Mills Room, a formal dining space where they will enjoy a three-course meal and standard beverage service.

The evening is approximately two-and-a-half hours long and contains some minor adult humor, plus plenty of inside references and jokes aimed at the Columbus area.

“It’s very lighthearted and fun,” Kate Musgrove said of the production. “It’s just a good evening out.”Interactive experience

The show features two actors, Haley Rice and Rearcous Smith, each of whom play multiple characters.

Rice portrays everyone from perennial bridesmaid Tansy Homely to a society reporter to an airhead.

Smith, meanwhile, takes on the persona of extravagant wedding planner Sergio Spinnalli, as well as that of a straight-laced detective.

“We’re very different from character to character,” said Rice, an adjunct theater instructor at Columbus State University.

What makes mystery theater unique in the world of acting?

“You never know what the audience is going to do. It’s unlike any other show,” Rice said. “There’s just this huge improvisational element to it.”

While guests aren’t obligated to take speaking parts in the show, there are about 25 different roles available for audience members who volunteer their talents.

That interactive quality is what makes the show different on a nightly basis, as well as what keeps the actors on their toes.

“The audience brings in the energy with them,” said Smith, who’s performed in many plays and musicals throughout the South and has been a professional entertainer for the past 10 years.

What’s more, sometimes the show’s emphasis on audience participation will unexpectedly resurrect the inner Hollywood starlet in a dinner guest, the actors say.

“They get to see their friends act,” Rice said of the audience members. “It’s an unforgettable experience.”

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