By Susan Schenck
“It is with a heavy heart that I must inform you that someone has been murdered!” announced Hugh Dunnit (a.k.a. Hugh Loomis) in a British accent so smooth, it fooled a lady from England. A mesmerized audience of 60 at Paladar’s Restaurante Dinner Club, then listened carefully as five murder suspects were introduced and presented their comical alibis in faux accents.
These were the opening words to Cuenca’s first interactive murder-mystery event, “Murder Ahoy,” produced by Bob Higgins (Cuenca Events) and directed by Hugh Loomis, both of whom, coincidentally, participated in such events in the U.S. (Bob throughout the Northeast and Hugh in the Southeast). The acting company “Cuenca Characters” supplied the performers, all of whom have had prior acting and/or public speaking experience.
The dinner guests were deputized and given a multitude of clues throughout the evening, for example, in newspaper articles about the poor, strangled, cruise director Sunny Sails and a death report that revealed the time of the murder and the “cross-hatch pattern on the victim’s throat”—could it be from the jewelry amassed by Becky Messer, or a bungee cord possessed by Molly Rotter?
Each suspect had a potential motive for murder. Becky Messer (Kris Loomis) detested Sunny for prying into her private life. “It was like she was stalking me!” Molly Rotter (Linda Chase) was terrified that Sunny would reveal that Molly had plagiarized Sunny’s late-brother’s material for her bestselling book, Maniac Marketing. A deal between Sunny and real-estate tycoon Rhoda Blogger (Laura Inks Bodine) had gone sour. Harv Karver (Hugh Prayther) was missing a very valuable poker chip—had Sunny stolen it? And Lou Cruise’s (Bob Higgins) career in producing wrestling cruises was destroyed by Sunny’s inefficiency.
The five suspects were interrogated by the deputies as they enjoyed dinner included in the admission price—appetizer, salad, main course (with a veg option), and dessert (and cash bar) provided by Chef Roger of Paladar’s. After dinner another Q & A group session was led by Detective Dunnit.
The deputies debated the details amongst themselves throughout the meal, then each cast his or her vote to identify who they though committed the cold-blooded murder, along with their explanation of how they reached their conclusion (to which one penciled in “alcohol”). The winners each received a voucher for half-off their next meal at the restaurant.
The guests were abuzz with delight. “The performance was tons of fun and we got to see several really good artists,” remarked Herb Lamb. Others chimed in: “What a unique evening!” “The food is great, too!” “How much fun can you have in one night?” “Cuenca needs this change of pace!” “Absolutely hilarious!”
Another Murder Mystery, “Murder Is Par for the Course,” scheduled for September 5, is already sold out. But there will be one the week of Halloween at La Roux Restaurant, and another around Christmas again at Paladar’s.
For information on upcoming events, including murders, contact Bob Higgins at CuencaEvents@Gmail.com.
Susan Schenck is the author of several books, including Expats in Cuenca: The Magic & The Madness and The Quilotoa Loop: Ecuador’s Hidden Treasure. She also gives raw food classes and catering and can be contacted at LiveFoodFactor@Yahoo.com.
Photo caption: Trying to figure out who dun it at Paladar’s; Photo credit: Anthony Cebrian.