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Fun is the key for Oakmont church's dinner theater

| Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018, 9:00 p.m.
Brian Crooks as Eustace the Butler (standing, from left), Julie Kelley as Addalinda the maid and Jessica Jacka as Madelyn, Anastasia's sister. Seated is Rachel King as Princess Anastasia.
Charlene Jacka
Brian Crooks as Eustace the Butler (standing, from left), Julie Kelley as Addalinda the maid and Jessica Jacka as Madelyn, Anastasia's sister. Seated is Rachel King as Princess Anastasia.

Donna Jacka says her goal every year for the Mystery Dinner Theater at United Methodist Church, Oakmont, is to make sure everyone has fun doing and attending this event and they all want to return next year.

The event, in its 24th year, allows the church to raise more than $3,500 each year for missions. In 2018, the money is earmarked for the Verona Summer Fun Camp, Western Pennsylvania Methodist Camps and Puerto Rico Disaster Relief through the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

“Unmurdered” will be presented Feb. 23-25. The audience works together in tables of 8 to 10 to solve the mystery and a chance to win gift certificates donated by local businesses.

“The people in the cast, crew, kitchen and dining staff are always amazing to work with,” Jacka says. “They put in hours of work to make this event happen. ... I think one reason why the audience likes it is because they can tell the cast has fun.”

It helps, too, she adds, that in the middle of winter people are looking for something different to do with friends.

In “Unmurdered,” Dash Reznor arrives at Bygone Days Artist Retreat ready for rest, relaxation and relief ... from his writer's block and his girlfriend. He finds that his reserved room is still occupied by Anna Maria, a penniless opera singer.

The other guests are a colorful group of artists and a young woman who thinks she is the last princess of the Romanov family. When Anna Maria appears to have been tossed out of a window, Detective Binnix is called in. But when Binnix comes up missing, it changes everything.

“I enjoy the light comedy and the closeness of the church family involved in the overall production,” says Jim Anderson of Harmar, who portrays Dash Reznor. “What really set the hook for me was the fact that all this time and energy put into the production yields funds that are all, yes, 100 percent, put back into missions and the community to benefit others.”

“I think this is a great thing our church does each year,” says Jess Jacka of Oakmont, who plays Madeline, sister of “Princess” Anastasia. “It takes so many people with a variety of different talents to come together to make it happen.”

Donna Jacka and her family, who do a lot of work behind the scenes, “really never gets enough credit” for the shows, Anderson says.

“My family works on tech (lights/sound), set and set decoration, program, posters, and acting, plus anything else. They cannot hide from me,” says Donna Jacka, laughing.

Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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