Murder Mystery Party Dinner with Dracula

Dinner with Dracula – Murder Mystery Dinner Party Makes Participant Interaction Its Centerpiece

In my old set of pearls and my preppiest headband, I open my Zoom settings and type in my new name. For the next hour and a half, I’m the “very conservative” Marina Seward, and – despite my dog shuffling behind me and the neighbors smoking outside my window – I’m having dinner with distant family and friends at the Transylvanian castle of the one and only Count Dracula. dinner with dracula

 

We have only just begun exchanging pleasantries and catching up on old rivalries when we are interrupted by the infamous vampire himself, who jokes around with the castle docent, Miss Derius, and serenades us in a surprisingly lovely bass. But despite his warm welcome, the Count has bad news: there’s a newly dead body in the stairwell, and it looks like the work of a young vampire recently turned by one of his brides – they’re independent women; he tries to stay out of it. Now, we must determine who among us is the culprit before their thirst for blood returns and dooms us all.

 

Murder Mystery Dinner Party’s Dinner with Dracula is a ninety-minute highly interactive remote experience written, produced, and performed by Cortney Matz and Hunter Stiebel. This family-friendly evening, which takes place over Zoom, isn’t scary, despite its source – the writing and performance aspects lean into the comedic. More collaborative than competitive, individual clues sent out prior to the show come together intricately to solve the mystery, with some part of each person’s information integral to group success. Guests of all ages will be amused by the sufficiently campy writing, and the unfolding events are easily followed no matter a participants’ prior knowledge level – though Matz, whose next productions will play on Sleepy Hollow and A Christmas Carol, includes a good amount of classic lore and references for any Dracula devotees in attendance.

 

Murder Mystery Dinner Party | Dinner with Dracula

 

With Matz and Stiebel the only two involved in production – the latter appearing only in the form of pre-recorded videos – Dinner with Dracula makes participant interaction its centerpiece. Avoiding the common murder mystery device of hiding an actor amongst the participants to later be revealed as part of the show, all audience members truly uncover the story simultaneously. Most discoveries are left for the group to work out as a team, the hostess Miss Derius only gently nudging the plot forward as needed. Even the story itself, while relatively simple, highlights the theme of coming together as a community. In a time of social distancing and isolation, it’s a refreshing evening of genuine connection between strangers located across the map.

 

With multiple possible participant-dependent endings, the production team has created a solid structure in which its audience can play. More facilitator than character, Cortney Matz makes working together easy as the hospitable Miss Derius, staying in character enough to not break immersion without ever losing the down-to-earth sensibility establishing her as a reliable guide. The largely comedic appearances of Hunter Stiebel’s pre-recorded Dracula add a delightful element of surprise and much-appreciated breaks from puzzling over clues, and his hammy performance and brilliant vampiric laughter earn that of the audience in return (though some of his lines are unfortunately lost to a combination of sound quality and heavy Transylvanian accent). And though the assigned audience character descriptions are written in a way specific enough to guide personalities and costumes for the more dramatic in the group, the guests are still left room to be themselves to whatever extent they wish.

 

The mystery itself comes together well enough, if with a few stumbles owing to unclear rules and directions. This partially can be attributed to the relatively new medium of Zoom-focused murder mysteries, the very nature of which adds some challenge to live theater. With internet multitasking the norm for most, lack of establishing if participants may simultaneously research in another window or if they’re limited to what their character would know can quickly cause confusion, or even disrupt the plot. Similarly, there is no room for any rough factual edges when informational error can be instantaneously uncovered, lest confusion ensue as to what is and isn’t meant to be trusted. Without the physical manipulatives of an in-person environment, ways in which discovered “documents” can be interacted may not always be obvious, and contingency plans are likely needed for any essential instructions given to individual participants in case spotty connections prevent their sharing what they know. Nevertheless, the good spirits of Matz’ Miss Derius kept our opening night audience laughing off setbacks together and brought us safely through to the ending, where our quick connection was made clear as we heartily complimented each others’ costumes and characterizations.

 

Murder Mystery Dinner Party | Dinner with Dracula

 

Dinner with Dracula immerses its participants in not just a mystery, but a temporary community. With jokes and challenges that will hold the attention of audience members of any age, it’s hard to imagine anyone not finding something there to enjoy. Live collaborative theater in the internet age means each night’s experience is bound to be slightly different – but with well-timed comedic moments and an environment receptive to first-time and experienced mystery-solvers alike, the words sung in welcome by the title character are surely bound to be true: “You’ll feel spectacular dining with Dracula.”

 

Find out more about Dinner with Dracula HERE. Check out our Event Guide for more horror and immersive entertainment throughout the year.

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