Share This Page

Oakmont church finds hosting a birthday party can be 'Murder'

| Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, 6:36 p.m.
Dan Speicher | For Valley News Dispatch
Rosemary portrayed by Becky Houston of Oakmont, prepares to celebrate her birthday during the Oakmont United Methodist Church's 20th annual Murder Mystery Dinner. Meanwhile Relatives Billy portrayed by Bill Kennedy of Oakmont, Valerie portrayed by Heather Fichte of Oakmont) Melanie portrayed by Julie Kelley of Lower Burrell, and Marjorie portrayed by Sherry Lauffer of Plum, conspire to to kill her during her birthday celebration.

Rosemary is hosting her own birthday party, but not everyone is there to celebrate.

When the unpopular woman meets a dastardly fate in the cafe, it appears her guests and restaurant staff each had a motive to off her.

Even the bumbling detective, who just got his degree in the mail, isn't what he seems as he questions the witnesses.

Audience members at Oakmont United Methodist Church's 20th anniversary Murder Mystery Dinner will be able to investigate the whodunit for themselves.

“Each table of eight works together and submits one answer as to who they think the killer is,” says director Donna Jacka of Oakmont. “If their table answers first with the correct answer, the table wins a prize for each person.”

This will be Sherry Lauffer's first time acting in the Oakmont church's dinner-theater production.

“I play Marjorie,” Lauffer says. “I am one of four siblings to Rosemary. (She) holds the purse strings to the family chicken-processing business, which annoys me, because I have a banking background and would like to make some changes to the way the business is run.”

“Guess that gives me a ‘motive,'” Lauffer says.

Yet, Marjorie is hardly alone in that.

Dave Fitche of Oakmont, who plays the maitre d', “wants to appear sophisticated, but is not so convincing. He likes the cafe, but not necessarily everyone in it.”

During “A Birthday at Cafe Murder,” each table will work together to solve the mystery by purchasing clues and newspapers for 25 cents. Proceeds will benefit church missions.

About 120 seats are available for each show.

“We usually sell out,” Jacka says. “We started out with Friday and Sunday only, but due to its popularity, a few years ago we added the Saturday luncheon. Not only does this allow for more seating, but makes it possible for people to attend who do not like to come out so late.

“It is a nice break for people who have cabin fever and need to get out for something fun,” Jacka says. “I think the success of the dinner, besides good food, is that everyone has a fun evening with the side benefit of helping a worthy cause.”

The Rev. Linda Chambers, who will portray “Aunt Violet,” says she looks forward to how the audience will respond to the show.

“My favorite part is finding out which person is the murderer,” Chambers says. “Our intent is for the people attending to enjoy the play and the meal.”

Private Investigator Reginald Harris, played by Jim Anderson of Harmar, took cues from famous detectives like Peter Falk's Columbo and Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau.

“I always look forward to the beautiful people who attend,” Anderson says. “We have many return diners who simply enjoy what we do and support our cause.

“I'm also amazed at what the audience finds funny,” Anderson says. “There are things in there that we run through that seem nonchalant that the audience will go nuts over, and other things we purposely build in there that don't get much response. Every crowd is different, and they all react differently, which sometimes takes you by surprise.

“Also, the many volunteers who help in the kitchen, serving food, selling programs, advertising, selling tickets and preparing the church to receive the audience are just truly devoted to the cause, too,” Anderson says.

Stephanie Ritenbaugh is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.